Final Score: Drexel 69, UNCW 57
Drexel Player of the Game: James Butler
Key to the Game: Play deliberate
January 31, 2015. That was the last time that the Drexel Dragons came out on top against the UNCW Seahawks. As Alan Boston has so eloquently pointed out, the product that C.B. McGrath has put on the floor is a far cry from Kevin Keatts’ dominating teams from a few years ago. Still though, coming into Thursday night, the Seahawks were once again an excellent three-point shooting team, ranked in the top 100 in the nation, in fact, with a key piece at center: Dragon slayer Devonte Cacok.
The Drexel UNCW matchup featured two teams who were at or near the top of the conference in tempo. They’ve both played fast. That would not, however, be the formula for Spiker’s Dragons in his sixth meeting with the Seahawks. He would instead choose to play a more deliberate game, which saw a surprising halftime score of 23-22 in favor of the Dragons. Aided by just seven minutes from Cacok, who found himself with a pair of fouls that sent him to the bench for the final 11 minutes of the half, Drexel could not capitalize on the absence of UNCW’s all-conference center.
Neither team shot well, especially from the perimeter. In the first 20 minutes, they shot a combined 2 for 16 from three. Thankfully though, when the second half kicked off, Drexel found their outside shooting touch. Drexel went 7 for 13 for the second half, while UNCW’s woes continued. The Seahawks followed up their 1 for 7 first half with a 1 for 11 second half. Ty Gadsen, who entered the game shooting 52% from three, was 0 for 3 from the perimeter, and 1 for 9 overall on the night. The lone bright spot for UNCW was Cacok, and even he had a far more muted night recording 15 points and just 9 boards.
With Troy Harper having an off night, his teammates were asked to step up and they did just that. Trevor John got hot in the second half as he scored all 14 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Alihan Demir had yet another strong scoring performance recording a game high 20 points in just 26 minutes while adding 8 rebounds. Cam Wynter was a true floor general. He scored just 4 points but added 8 assists and did not commit a single turnover in his 38 minutes on the floor. Wynter has truly become the metronome to guide the beat of his teammates this year.
James Butler was asked to play nearly the entire second half, 18 minutes in all, as he grabbed 11 boards, totaling 15 for the game. His 11 points gave him his fifth double-double of the season. While he shot just 3 for 7 on the game, his coach was quick to point out that many of Butler’s attempts were under duress. When Devonte Cacok is around, nothing is easy on the blocks. He was asked to play a physically demanding game against one of the best players in the conference, and boy did he answer. Those 37 minutes and those 15 boards were enough to earn Butler the player of the game honors.
Drexel’s second win in a row, and Spiker’s first victory against UNCW was a big one. With other results coming in from around the league, the Dragons walked away from Thursday’s game, heads held high with a 6-6 conference record, good enough to put them in a fourth-place tie with the University of Delaware.
While Drexel held UNCW to 57 points, which coincidentally matched the Seahawks’ total for the second half of their matchup in Wilmington, their coach thinks they can still do better. “We’ve got a long way to go but we better stay humble and hungry in every aspect of the game.” The coach said.
Keeping the tempo and pace on the game has been a winning formula for Drexel this year. When the Dragons play a more deliberate game and keep the game’s pace under 70, their record is 6-2. Their success is probably more attributed to their opponents’ attempts being limited rather than defensive efficiency, but it is working.
One of those six victories came against the College of Charleston who come to The DAC on Saturday afternoon fresh off a victory against Delaware. Charleston currently finds themselves in third place in the CAA with a record of 8-4, two games clear of Drexel and Delaware and just behind Northeastern who have played one less game this year.
Finally, one Drexel Dragon is inching closer to a notable personal accomplishment. With Trevor John’s 4 for 9 performance from three, he now has 83 threes for the year. The school record for three pointers is 92, recorded by Dominick Mejia in the 2005-06 season. With six games remaining, John is going to have a very good chance of eclipsing Mejia’s total.
Saturday’s game against Charleston is a 4pm start. We’ll see you at the DAC!