Final Score: Elon 65, Drexel 56
Drexel Player of the Game: Mohammed Bah
Key to the Game: Perimeter Shooting
Next Game: Thursday February 23 vs JMU (Drexel Senior Night)
When the Dragons took the floor of the DAC against the Elon Phoenix one might think they would be excited to avenge their earlier loss at the hands of the Phoenix. Instead, the first four minutes of the game featured turnovers from two guards, and Coach Zach Spiker giving the hook and sitting both of his starting big men. Those early minutes proved a harbinger of things to come as the shorthanded Dragons (missing guards Kari Jonsson and Miles Overton) never got their offensive engine to started.
Unlike the effort at Delaware on Thursday night, the off the ball work was there for the Dragons on Saturday. The defense proved solid against Coach Matt Matheny’s usually potent Elon offense. Elon shot 47% from deep in the first half but were still held to just 32 points in the half as the Drexel rotations were crisper and the rebounding much improved. The rebounding was notable as Rodney Williams only played 27 minutes, his second lowest total in conference play, while Austin Williams had an unremarkable 15 minutes without a rebound to his name.
Without much production from the starters, Mohammed Bah saw a season high in minutes played with 29, and oh what 29 they were. The reserve big man and vocal leader scored 18 points on 7/9 shooting and had 12 rebounds without turning the ball over once. At halftime Bah had 8 of the teams 18 total points but more importantly had ignited an offense that had been going nowhere. Coming off of the bench, he hit a layup in his first possession, grabbed a steal on his first defensive possession, hit another layup and forced another turnover prior to heading back to the bench. In the second half, Coach Spiker gave Mo the start (“The game dictates who plays” ~Zach Spiker) and he had 5 of the Dragons first 8 points of the half.
With solid defense and points where they did not expect the points to come from, the Dragons should have been in the drivers seat. Elon is 3-7 when they score under 1 point per possession, and Drexel held them to just .905, their fourth lowest output of the season. It was a coupling of 15 Dragon turnovers (7 between Moran and Lee) and the inability to hit open looks that doomed the Dragons. When DU went inside the arc they hit at a very respectable 52% clip, but when they took largely open looks from the perimeter… it was trouble. In this game more than any other they were missing Kari Jonsson, the CAA’s leading three point shooter. With 3 minutes to play in the game, prior to some garbage time makes, the team was 5/30 from distance, just a 16.7% clip. Combine that with the frontcourt starters struggling which forced the team to take over 50% of their shots from three, and it all came together to be an offensive disaster. Drexel’s .78 points per possession were a season low by a healthy margin.
In a strange way, this game did symbolize progress. In their first contest Elon took 63% of their shots from inside the arc since they were allowed to get in there and be successful there. The Drexel defense has continued to improve since the William and Mary debacle, the rebounding was much in this version of the contest as well. So things are getting tighter, the system buyin continues. The team has shown plenty of ability to hit shots and cleanup turnovers throughout the year, so that this was the problem on this night shows that most of the glaring issues for this Dragon team have been getting addressed. This team has shown growth within the system and is improving. Hopefully they can see Kari Jonsson return prior to the season wrapping.
Drexel returns to the court on Thursday, February 23 to conclude their home schedule against likely CAA Tournament opponent James Madison. Fans are recommended to come early to support five Dragons who will be recognized in the pregame ceremonies.