A big “Thank you” goes out to Drexel alum Nate Hemerly for providing us this take on Denise Dillon’s women’s team and their unfortunate loss to Penn St.
I start this blog post with an important disclaimer. After four years living in Japan where Drexel women’s basketball games often started at 2 or 3 AM on a Monday morning, I have to admit I’ve only seen a handful of their games since 2013. I essentially missed the careers of an entire recruiting class which is hard to believe after being a loyal fan of Denise Dillon’s teams since she blessed us with her presence at Drexel in 2003.
I warn you because I might say things that are wrong or just don’t make any sense. The risk of sounding like an idiot is worth taking because this program deserves your attention.
Hopefully I can put some credibility in the bank by telling you this story. While I was watching our team tentatively pass the ball around in the first quarter of today’s 84-70 loss to Penn State, I thought to myself, “This seems like a young team with a deer in headlights look to it”. Sure enough, we were starting three sophomores in the first game of the season against a Big 10 opponent on Penn State football’s homecoming weekend.
While our eyes were adjusting to the size and length of a Power 5 conference zone defense, the Lady Lions were roaring off in transition for one transition lay-up after the next. Two straight lay-ups by Penn State’s Jayden Travascio-Green put her team up 24-12 late in the first quarter after the roof finally caved in for Drexel. A tightly called game aided the more assertive Lady Lions who went on a 7-0 run with free throws alone during their first quarter run.
The second and ultimately decisive Penn State run came to start the second half when Travascio-Green made her presence known again – this time from three point range. She hit 6 of her 10 three point attempts in the second half en route to a game high 31 points. Penn State built their largest lead of 21 points with 4:15 left in the third quarter. It was a combination of Travascio-Green’s hot shooting and Penn State’s ability to get easy baskets in the paint with their superior size and athleticism that had the Dragons on the verge of getting run out of the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State shot 20 more foul shots and outscored Drexel 25-8 in second chance points, 15-3 in fast break points, and 36-24 in points in the paint.
It probably seems like I’m building up to a complete train wreck for the young Dragons, but Denise Dillon is their head coach. You can count on her to coach her team up throughout the game and the season. She lit into her players on several run-stopping time outs like a coach who wasn’t just there to collect a buy game pay check and get back on the bus. The Dragons got more aggressive about attacking the basket and much more confident in their passes within Dillon’s offense. A 16-5 fourth quarter run was done by committee as sophomore Bailey Greenberg (Drexel’s only returning starter who played today), redshirt freshman Mariah Leonard, junior Tereza Kracikova, and senior Sarah Woods all played key roles. Sophomore point guard Aubree Brown gained confidence throughout the game and her free throw with 4:28 left cut the Penn State lead to 9.
Drexel baskets on any of their next three possessions would’ve made things really interesting against a Penn State team that might have started thinking about their previous exhibition loss to the Cedarville University Yellow Jackets. GOPSUsports.com
has conveniently taken that game off the Lady Lions online schedule. Unfortunately, sophomore Ana Ferariu couldn’t connect on either of her open three which could’ve gotten the Dragons within 6, and Travscio-Green provided the dagger with her sixth second half three pointer to seal the win for Penn State.
The open looks were there though, and Drexel can talk on their way back down Route 322 and the PA Turnpike about the chances they missed rather than having no chance at all. Denise Dillon played 10 different Dragons and her bench actually outscored Penn State’s bench 17-8. A big part of Dillon’s success as head coach has been her willingness to give playing time to younger players especially in the non-conference schedule.
Another big part of her success has been her connection to Archbishop Wood High School. Aubre Brown (16 points) and Bailey Greenberg (11 points) will be fun to watch over the next three years. Junior Eline Maesschalk is a third 5’11” blonde haired guard who added 12 points. Opposing defenses might have trouble telling the difference between who’s dropping three pointers on them. Coach Dillon is no doubt hoping she will have not one but three Hollie Mershon’s over the next few years.
Overall, while the Dragons failed to get another big win over a Power 5 school, the progress that was shown over 40 minutes this afternoon was clear. My sense is Penn State isn’t exactly expecting to compete for a Big 10 title this year, but their size and athleticism posed a significant challenge for a small and fairly inexperienced Drexel team. I would expect senior Sarah Woods and other post players to fare much better against CAA competition that’s not 6’3″ and can drop threes. Hopefully some of you will come out to the DAC this season to see what kind of noise they can make in CAA play as these younger players grow up.