Final Score: Drexel 83, Elon 79
Key to the Game: Ball movement and clean looks
Player of the Game: Tramaine Isabell
Next Game: Saturday, January 27th, 2pm vs. Northeastern
When Drexel closed out the 2017 calendar year at Elon University, it was all Phoenix, all the time. Tramaine Isabell was a spectator for that game, and Miles Overton was healthy. Thursday night gave the Drexel Dragons their first opportunity for redemption of the season, and another shot at their first win on their home court against Elon, with the visiting team winning all three contests at the DAC. Miles Overton missed his fourth consecutive game with a back injury, and he was joined by the snakebit Tyshawn Myles who would miss Thursday’s game, this time under the concussion protocol. Lucky for Drexel, and unlucky for Elon, Tramaine Isabell was back on the court for the Dragons.
The first ten minutes of the game did not go Drexel’s way. Elon is notorious for their ability to bang down threes, relying more on volume of shots rather than efficiency but nobody in the DAC expected Brian Dawkins, Elon’s starting center, to sink the first two threes of the night. With just under 13 minutes to go in the half, the Phoenix went on a 12-3 run that featured threes by Tyler Seibring and their backup big man Karolis Kundrotas. With 9:39 to go, Sheldon Eberhardt sunk a two point jumper that prompted Zach Spiker to burn a timeout and regrouping his troops.
The thirty seconds on the sideline was exactly the wake-up call the Dragons needed. Drexel hit the court and went on an 8-0 run, holding Elon to just nine points for the rest of the first half. At the break, Drexel trailed 34-31. The game was in reach. The score in the first twenty minutes shows just how important it is to maintain possession of the ball. Elon shot a very respectable 48.3% from the field in the half, but their eight turnovers prevented a number of inevitable additional attempts. Drexel played a much tighter game, and although they shot just 37.1%, they committed just two turnovers which allowed them to keep things close.
The second half saw the Dragons come alive. Drexel scored at the torrid rate of 1.444 points per possession. Tramaine Isabell poured in 28 points in 19 minutes, Troy Harper added 11 in 12 minutes and the Dragons shot 56.7% from the field for the second twenty minutes.
For Elon, only two players made more than one three pointer: Dawkins’ pair early, and Seibring’s total of three. Coach Spiker was quick to point out that Elon shot above what the team’s defensive goals are, but their perimeter efforts were good enough to contain many of Elon’s major threats from the outside.
Elon led for most of the half, but Drexel did not let the visiting team get ahead by more than seven. With just under four minutes remaining, Drexel set off on a 7-0 run with Tramaine Isabell, contributing all seven including a three to put Drexel ahead for good. When the buzzer sounded, Drexel came out on top 83-79, improving their record to 8-14, 2-7 in CAA play.
While there is still room for improvement on the defensive end of the court, this was one of the most well rounded performances the Dragons have put up this season. Their appearance on the court was something that cannot be measured in any stat line. They just seemed more cohesive. Passes were crisp. They challenged their opponents on defense, forcing nine Elon turnovers and scoring eight points off of them. Drexel committed a season-low six turnovers themselves, bringing their turnover percentage into the top-85 in the nation.
From an individual standpoint, Troy Harper has looked like a different player since the Towson game that saw him pick up a technical foul. His play was more in tune with those around him, and for the second consecutive game he poured in 14 points on 8 shots, including two key free throws in the game’s waning minutes. Alihan Demir looked more in form and contributed 11 points on 7 rebounds while drawing the match up with Seibring. His substitution pattern matched the Elon junior’s pretty closely, and it was only when Demir got in foul trouble in the second half that Drexel changed things up. Austin Williams contributed three more blocks on the defensive end bringing his season total to 60 which, incidentally, is the most for a Dragon since Chaz Crawford blocked 94 in 2006-07.
Tramaine Isabell’s 40 points was more than enough to win him the player of the game honors. His play was head and shoulders above anyone else on the court. It was the first time a Drexel Dragon has scored 40 points in a game since Michael Anderson’s 42 point performance on February 27, 1988 against Rider. His shooting was spectacular: 7 of 12 from inside the arc, and 7 of 11 from three. At one point, it seemed like everything he would throw up was finding its way through the hoop.
Coach Spiker emphasized the importance of Isabell’s teammates in his success on Thursday, “You want to create for him. I give a lot of the guys on the team credit.” Isabell did not want anyone to think he was a one man show either. “My guys were finding me,” he said, “there were a lot of times where guys were making that extra pass.” One other thing that needs not go overlooked in Isabell’s dossier from Thursday is his play on the defensive end of the court. He picked up three steals and in addition to being part of a few other key defensive stops. It was one of the best all-around performances #2 has put up for Drexel this season.
Although one might not think he had a good game based on the score sheet, both teammate and coach praised the play of Kurk Lee. Lee’s penetration, Isabell said, drew defenders off of him giving him better looks from the perimeter. Spiker spoke highly of the job Lee did defending Elon’s Dainan Swoope. The junior guard finished with just nine points, shooting 1 of 5 from three.
For those on the fence about whether or not to come out to the DAC to join the paid attendance of 843 fans who were at Thursday’s game, this is a team that is looking hungry. They may be licking their wounds after the Delaware and JMU road losses but with the second of three home games coming on Saturday, this would be a great time for this team to get hot.
Saturday is Drexel’s homecoming game against Northeastern. Tip-off is at 2pm. It is a big weekend for the Dragons. Following the men’s game, the 8-2 wrestling team takes to the mat against Binghamton. Sunday, the women’s team takes on Northeastern with their own 2pm tip.