Final Score: Northeastern 75, Drexel 69
Key to the Game: Be the hungrier team
Drexel Player of the Game: Troy Harper
Next Game: Saturday February 17th, 4pm at Hofstra
When Northeastern came to the DAC last month, they were stunned by a Dragons team that fought their way to a 68-67 win, aided by 13 turnovers by the Huskies and six blocks by paint patroller Austin Williams. As they took to the court, the Dragons knew that they had a another fight ahead of them if they wanted to come out on top for a second time against a hot Huskies team, but the cheers during player introductions told them they’d have some support. In addition to the usual Sammy Mojica fan club coming in from Chelsea, Massachusetts, there were a good number of Drexel fans in attendance, and they let the home team fans know that they were there.
Williams started tonight’s game from the bench, Tyshawn Myles taking his place on the floor. Even though he was dressed Drexel’s starting center was still a question mark for Thursday night’s game. That question was answered just over five minutes into the game when the coach sent #5 to the scorer’s table. While Williams contributed two turnovers to the team’s total of 10 for the half, he didn’t appear to be missing a step as he contributed four points, three boards, and a blocked shot.
Drexel shot 61.9% for the first half, and equally as well from the perimeter, sinking 4 out of 7 from three. Troy Harper appeared to return to form on the offensive end of the court. He looked much more composed as he scored a team high 11 points with his usual slash-and-get-hacked offensive game. After a cold start, the team made 9 of their last 10 shots, all but two, a pair of three pointers, were high percentage shots from the paint. When they could get a shot off, they were getting the right shots off. Their achilleas heal, however, was their ability to hold onto the ball and hustle for the loose ones. Drexel committed 10 first half turnovers, four of them credited to Tramaine Isabell. While the team had an excellent shooting display, they still found themselves trailing by 10 as the first half ended.
With 14:55 remaining in the second twenty minutes, Austin Williams went down hard to the floor, appearing to have reinjured his right foot. Following the arrival of the team’s trainer and their coach, he was able to get himself up and off the court under his own power but with a noticeable limp. He would not return to the game, and as expected, there were no indications as to his prognosis following the contest.
As the second half progressed, Northeastern left the door wide open for the Dragons. They opened the first eight minutes of the half shooting just 28%. With the help of their opponent’s missteps, Drexel was able to pull the game as close as three points in the final minutes of regulation. Tramaine Isabell led the charge with spin move after spin move that helped him total 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting. Troy Harper cooled of but stayed efficient. He followed up his 11 point first half by adding 6 more in the second frame. Only three other Dragons scored in the second twenty minutes: Mojica had five, Jarvis Doles had four, and Kurk Lee had two.
Despite a gutsy comeback and a Northeastern team that scored less than a point per possession in the second half, when it came down to the wire, Drexel just did not have enough left in their tank to put a tick in the “W” column. Northeastern improved their record to 18-9 overall, and 11-4 in the CAA by beating the Dragons 75-69.
For those who are scratching their heads trying to figure out how a team shoots over 60% in the first half and 50% for the game and still walks away a loser, the answer can be found a few columns away: turnovers and offensive rebounds. Drexel allowed Northeastern to grab 18 offensive boards that they converted into 18 second chance points. The Dragons also coughed up the rock a total of 16 times for the game. Northeastern was able to pour in 16 points off the Dragons’ mistakes.
The Player of the Game nod from Thursday night’s contest goes to Troy Harper. Harp was able to play his game tonight, shooting 6 of 9 from the field and scoring 17 total points. He drove the lane with impunity and the referees rewarded him for the body banging he did. His aggressive play helped him get to the line a total of seven times. He converted five of them.
Regardless of tonight’s score, Thursday’s game would be the last time that Sammy Mojica donned a Drexel uniform in regular season play in his home state. While Austin Williams has gotten a lot of attention this year, Sammy’s play during his four years at Drexel cannot be overlooked. He has been a workhorse since day one. He was asked to contribute heavily in his freshman season and currently stands as the team’s active leader in games started, becoming a regular in the starting five in his sophomore season.
After the game, Zach Spiker spoke highly of Mojica and the growth that they have both had over the past two seasons after the Massachusetts native initially indicated a desire to transfer following the departure of Bruiser flint. “It’s been fun coaching him. I’m glad he had success here in his final game, but I know what’s great about Sammy is that he would have traded individual success for us to get a win tonight.”
As the team heads south in the direction of Long Island, Sammy’s fans, friends and family who made it to the game tonight, and those who were not in attendance, can be proud of the contributions that Sammy Mojica made to Drexel’s men’s basketball program.
Drexel returns to the floor on Saturday as they take on Hofstra. With Dan and Scott both on vacation, Jerry Beach from Defiantly Dutch will be covering the contest for Always a Dragon. Thanks again to Jerry for his help, and as always, thanks for reading.