Final Score: Drexel 76, JMU 74
Key to the Game: Team play
Player of the Game: Troy Harper
Next Game: Saturday February 3, 4pm at William & Mary
On the heels of back to back victories against two arguably superior Colonial Athletic Conference teams, Drexel looked to make it three in a row as the Dukes from James Madison came to Philadelphia. The last place Dukes’ most recent win came on January 20th. Coincidentally, it was at the expense of the Dragons, as the Dukes squeaked out a 75-73 victory. As they tried to build on their recent success, JMU seemed ripe for the picking.
The first half featured as strong a defensive display that has been seen from the Dragons in quite some time. JMU was held to just 30% shooting, and an abysmal .595 points per possession. Stuckey Mosely, the team’s leading scorer and one of the top scorers in the conference, was held just four points. As a team, JMU missed all 10 three pointers they attempted.
On the other side of the ball, Drexel’s offensive performance was one that could be described as “just enough.” They scored .833 points per possession on 33.3% shooting of their own. Their five first half turnovers were costly, leading to six points for the Dukes, but the visiting team turned the ball over seven times themselves. Drexel’s scoring was balanced with five players with five or more. Tramaine Isabell and Austin Williams led the way with six each. Drexel’s adequate scoring and superlative defensive display was enough to send them to the locker room with a 30-22 lead at the half.
The second half of the game flipped Drexel’s performance around. Their defensive performance surrendered 1.333 Duke points per possession. Stuckey Mosely got hot, pouring in 18 points along with freshman Matt Lewis who scored a game high 26.
JMU’s 59.4% second half field goal percentage was nearly matched by Drexel’s 57.7%. Kurk Lee scored all 14 of his points in the second twenty minutes, adding two assists and just one turnover for the game. While his scoring touch has struggled this season, Lee, the team’s sophomore point guard, was said to be a “facilitator” in recent games by his coach. In the second half though, he appeared to regain his scoring form from last year in a season. This contest came down to the wire as JMU fought their way back into it, ultimately tying the contest at 72 with 1:40 to play.
With less than a minute remaining, Troy Harper picked Stuckey Mosely’s pocket shortly after he crossed half court and took the rock the distance for an easy layup putting Drexel up 74-72 and sending the Dukes to the bench for a timeout licking their wounds. The Dukes executed out of the huddle, sinking a layup to tie the game with just 26 seconds remaining. With a timeout in his pocket, Zach Spiker let his guys bring the ball up the court confident in their preparation. Kurk Lee took the ball to the hole and drew a blocking foul on Ramone Snowden. He’d head to the line with the chance to put the Dragons ahead, and he did just that, as he sunk both of his free throws to give Drexel a 76-74 lead.
JMU’s inbound featured their leading scorer and best player Stuckey Mosely on the end line inbounding the ball. After a quick toss, he took the ball back on a handoff and started up the floor, the seconds ticking down. As he moved to the right side of the lane, he was met by Drexel center and shot blocking machine, Austin Williams. Mosely’s floater was fittingly tossed into the DAC Pack for Stretch’s 5th block of the night as time expired. Drexel walked away with a tight 76-74 victory.
After the game, coach Spiker spoke about his team’s versatility. “Our slogan can be and is ‘sometimes you, sometimes me, always us.’ Different guys stepped up in different ways tonight.” That was no more evident than in the play of Tramaine Isabell. With the team’s leading scorer held to just eight points, two in the second half, it was Lee, Harper and Sammy Mojica who stepped up to pick up the slack. What Isabell showed on Thursday at the DAC was that he is not a one-dimensional player as the junior transfer pulled down six boards and grabbed four assists.
One other interesting observation that should be mentioned is Drexel’s substitution pattern. After Austin Williams replaced Tadas Kararinas with eight minutes remining, Spiker ran with the combination of Kurk Lee, Tramaine Isabell, Troy Harper, Sammy Mojica and Williams for the duration of the game. Mojica finished as the sole Dragon with three fouls and Harper, who took a few hard knocks as he fearlessly drove the lane time and time again, finished with a team high 17 points in just 24 minutes. His biggest contributions though were from the foul line. Harper finished 10 for 12 on freebees.
While Sammy Mojica shot 4 of 7 from three for 16 points, and Austin Williams poured in 11 points to go with his five blocks, Thursday’s Player of the Game honor goes to Troy Harper. The technical foul against Towson a few weeks ago appears to have been a real turning point for the team’s junior guard. Thursday night, he was a leader on the court. He could be seen slapping the floor on defense, and time and time again he was found drawing fouls on offense. The referees decided to call a somewhat soft game, and Harper took advantage of it. His gameplay was smart, and despite coughing up four turnovers for the game, Harper made every one of his 24 minutes on the floor count.
“Basketball’s a game of momentum,” Spiker said in his postgame, and he’s right. The CAA standings are full of hot and cold teams both over and underperforming. The race at the top is just as tight as the race to the bottom. With Thursday’s victory, Drexel finds themselves in a three-way tie with UNCW and Delaware. The Seahawks have undoubtedly underperformed this season. Drexel will see them on February 24th for the final regular season game of the year. Delaware is currently playing with six scholarship players as their leading scorer Ryan Daly is out for another three weeks with a sprained ankle. Delaware’s schedule might be the toughest in the conference for the next couple of weeks too with two games against Elon, away games against William & Mary and Towson, and Northeastern at home.
If there was ever a good time for the Drexel Dragons to get hot its now. With their winning streak currently sitting at three games, Zach Spiker continues his quest for his first CAA road win as Drexel heads to William & Mary on Saturday to take on one of the best shooting teams in the nation. The 4pm tip, as always, will be featured on CAA TV which can be found both online and on Roku.