Player of the Game: Kayla Bacon
February 2018 will go down as one of the greatest months in Philadelphia sports history. You almost wish the month was 31 days instead of 28. The glow from the first ever Super Bowl victory by the Eagles spread to the Sixers and Flyers who are 16-0-1 since Brady’s Hail Mary landed incomplete in the end zone. Even Drexel has been infected. The men’s basketball team erased a 34 point deficit to Delaware on Thursday night after so many years under Bruiser Flint where getting to 50 points in a game required some heavy lifting.
With this tide clearly raising all boats, asking Denise Dillon to guide the Drexel women’s basketball team back from an early 13-4 point to the Towson Tigers deficit seemed like no sweat. Coach Dillon used her trademark adjustments, balanced scoring, and ability to get the most out of everyone on her bench en route to a 62-54 victory over Towson at the SECU Arena on Sunday.
The Dragons finish the month of February at 6-1 and have the inside track to the #1 seed in the CAA Women’s Basketball tournament which will be at the DAC in 2 weeks.
Towson looked poised out of the gate to take advantage of a Drexel team still recovering from a huge double overtime win over James Madison on Friday night. They have always played a physical style of play that pounds the paint. Forward Mary Cuevas used her size to give Drexel problems in the paint throughout the first half. She finished with a double-double at 14 points and 14 rebounds. The combination of Cuevas (6’3″), Nukiya Mayo (6’3″) , Danielle Durjan (5’10”), and Daijha Thomas (6’4″) would put up 40 of the Tigers’ 54 points and helped them to a 22-16 points in the paint advantage through 3 quarters.
Drexel struggled to keep up behind an abysmal first half shooting performance of 2-12 from 3 point range and 6-30 overall from the field. But have no fear – Denise Dillon was there – and the Dragons stormed out of the locker room to turn a 23-18 halftime deficit into a 24-23 lead after a Bailey Greenberg jump shot just 1:25 into the 3rd quarter. Greenberg (12 points) and Kelsi Lidge (13 points) filled their roles as Drexel’s leading scorers by bringing the offense to life. The second half offensive emphasis was ball movement and getting into the paint. Drexel only took 3 three pointers in the entire second half.
It wouldn’t prove to be a runaway for the first place Dragons against the 7th place Tigers, however. Towson would hold a 3 point lead as late as 7:24 to go in the 4th quarter in what became a back and forth contest for much of the second half.
Enter freshman guard Kayla Bacon at the 7:12 mark of the 4th quarter. She would play the part of Corey Clement or Trey Burton for the Eagles. They were guys who played a huge part in the Eagles playoff run when you didn’t necessarily expect it.
The native of nearby Owings Mill, Maryland came out of the woodwork to score 6 points in a 15-2 Drexel run that finally finished off Towson. Bacon averages just 1.3 points per game and 6 minutes across 16 games played this season. Impressive as her offensive output was, her hustle and speed on defense allowed Coach Dillon to run a full court press at Towson that they simply couldn’t handle. If the press didn’t force a turnover, it seemed to rush Towson’s offense to where they couldn’t take advantage of their size in the post.
Aubree Brown was also clutch offensively down the stretch and finished with 16 points. Tereza Kracikova used her size to give the Towson post players added trouble.
All told, it was another entertaining win by Denise Dillon’s Dragons who still have all their goals very much on the table for them. Never mind Towson’s CAA record. Drexel is taking everyone’s best shot as the leagues current frontrunner and were at high risk of a letdown following an emotional win less than 48 hours earlier. I can’t think of anything more “Drexel women’s basketball” than somebody like Kayla Bacon coming off the bench at the end of her freshman year to save her team from disaster.
It is that type of team basketball that has become so characteristic of this program. And it is that type of basketball that puts the Dragons in a great position to celebrate their second CAA Championship on their home floor in 2 weeks.