Final Score: Temple 63, Drexel 60
Drexel Player of the Game: Sammy Mojica
Key to the Game: Capitalize on their mistakes
Next Game: Monday December 18, 7pm vs. Quinnipiac
Drexel came in to Saturday’s contest taking on a Temple team that had been routed on their home court by a superb Villanova Wildcats team. This would be Drexel’s second game against a Big 5 team this season following their 72-70 victory away against the La Salle Explorers just nine days prior. Saturday’s contest at The Liacouras Center, not far from the DAC, would give Zach Spiker yet another chance to make a case for expanding the Big 5 to the City 6.
The first half proved to be a physical one. Bodies were banging, and the referees were letting a lot go. Tramaine Isabell and Kurk Lee probed for lanes but were not finding much. The outside shooting was not working very well either. Sammy Mojica hit the team’s first three of the game with 2:20 remaining in the first half. The bright spot for the Dragons in the early goings were the bigs. Temple struggled to find an answer for Austin Williams’ size, and Alihan Demir proved to be the best Dragon on the floor, finishing the half with 11 points and 8 rebounds.
All in all though, Drexel found a way to hang with the Owls for the first twenty minutes. They went to the locker room trailing by 9. They came back on the floor with a fire ignited in their bellies.
The Dragons scored the fist seven points of the second half before The Owls got their talons back under them. The teams traded shots for much of the second twenty minutes but it was a depleted Drexel team that played the better ball. Fatigue was a factor for the short bench of the Dragons, with just seven players seeing action. Isabell, Lee and Mojica looked like they lost a step at one point, and their coach recognized it. With the under-8 media timeout approaching, Spiker burned a timeout to give his thee guards, who never came off the floor, a break. Coupled with the media timeout that followed shortly after, the trio had a chance to sit and get their wind back for nearly 4 minutes.
With 2:42 to go, Mojica, tonight’s player of the game, sank a three to put Drexel ahead 56-55. While Spiker had a lot to say about his team’s defensive play as a unit, calling it their best defensive performance of the year, Sammy Mojica drew the assignment of covering Temple’s leading scorer Quinton Rose when the team went man-to-man. Rose did not get on the score sheet until the final shot of the first half. It took him another 15 minutes to score his only other bucket of the night in the second half. His five points was a season low, and that was coming off of a 27 point performance on 9 of 12 shooting against Villanova. He also committed four turnovers in his 35 minutes on the floor. Mojica countered with 40 minutes, 11 points, a steal and 3 of 6 shooting from behind the arc.
Speaking of turnovers, Drexel made the most of Temple’s missteps in the second half outscoring Temple 11-2 from turnovers after being bested 9-0 in the first half. While Temple committed 11 turnovers to Drexel’s 15, the Dragons came out on top in most of the other statistical categories. They shot better, the outrebounded Temple 43-32, with temple collecting just two offensive rebounds in the second half. Most notably though was Drexel putting up 40 points in the paint, besting Temple’s 26.
One other notable thing that the Dragons accomplished on Saturday was staying out of foul trouble. This was a physical game. The fans in attendance and watching at home saw their fair share of everything from hand checks to body contact on layups go uncalled. That certainly worked to the Dragons’ advantage. The zebras swallowed their whistles to the tune of just 25 foul calls combined for the game for both teams. In crunch time, Drexel still had a foul to give when the need arose to put Temple on the line.
Not to be overshadowed by Mojica’s complete performance, Austin Williams and Alihan Demir each had excellent games in the front court. In fact, Temple head coach had a lot of good things to say about Williams’ first half performance. The Drexel big man finished the game with his third double-double of the year, tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds. Demir had a spectacular first half. He was a perfect 5 for 5 form the field, heading to the locker room with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Both big men faded offensively in the second half after scoring a combined 21 points in the first half, giving way to Mojica and Kurk Lee. Defensively though, Stretch recorded 7 rebounds and had two key blocked shots to go with five points.
On the injury front, things looked a little better on the Drexel sidelines. Walk-on Kris Alford dressed for his first game of the year. Sam Green was walking around under his own power, and Miles Overton was once again out of a boot. Troy Harper has been out of a sling for a while, but his mere presence on the bench brings promise of a deeper backcourt sometime soon.
On the absence front though, things were not as good for the Dragons. As previously mentioned, Zach Spiker used seven players tonight. Tadas Kararinas and Tyshawn Myles were the only two subs that he used. Freshman Jarvis Doles, who has started nine games this season, never got off the bench. When asked about his absence, Spiker did not have much to say, but it does not appear to be injury related. “We are getting better as a program, and every day is a day to learn,” he said, not giving any more of an answer.
Since there will inevitably be some speculation about what Doles could have contributed had he played, this was a tight game that could have been changed by any of the 139 possessions these teams shared. While Doles’ presence could have had an impact on this game, lingering on his absence will not get the fan base very far. A lot happens on the practice court, and behind the scenes that those outside of the team never see or know about. Players are expected to bring certain things to the table as athletes students, and people. When they fail to deliver, there are consequences for their actions. Again, it is not known why Doles did not play on Saturday, but following a game like this one, we are better suited focusing on what went right for the Dragons.
Although Drexel lost to Temple 63-60, there were a ton of positives tonight, especially in the second half. The case for Drexel to get more respect in city rivalry games just becomes stronger and stronger. To Drexel’s credit, they have played each of the Big Five teams rather competitively, losing contests to both St. Joe’s and Temple by a single possession.
But more on that next week.
The Dragons return to the DAC Monday night to take on Quinnipiac with a 7pm tip-off.