Final Score: Towson 90, Drexel 68
Key to the Game: Flexibility
Drexel Player of the Game: Tramaine Isabell
Next Game: Saturday January 20 @ JMU
The Dragons made the first stop in a south of the Mason-Dixon road trip last night, clashing against the Towson Tigers in Towson, Maryland. My understanding of the south isn’t what it could be, but after a decade plus of tournaments in Richmond or Baltimore, I’ve learned that it is local custom that both the best nights and the worst nights, end at the Waffle House. So following a 90-68 Towson victory that didn’t feel that close I found myself in the comforts of The House, seated at the counter and being tended to by two servers who could not have been more kind.
The waitresses name tags identified one of them as Joy, and the other as Jess the Mess. Joy was our assigned waitress, she took our orders and brought us our meal, but she was towards the end of her shift and by midway through our brief stop, Jess the Mess had moved in and was taking care of us. She made sure that the coffee was topped off and the patrons were happy, while excitedly explaining to the entire counter how she was soon headed a resort in Mexico.
We started with Joy and ended with Jess the Mess. The parallel that the Waffle House visit took to the basketball game couldn’t be more clear. “We came to bring the fight, but they had more fight [than]us.” Said Coach Spiker to Rob Brooks on the postgame radio show.
“We’re not equipped right now to be a team that gets up and down… we don’t have the health, guys that playing are not 100%. We don’t have the depth.” And depth was needed because the officiating crew of Jerry Heater, Nathan Farrell, and Matt Dorn blew the whistles 9 times in the first 5 minutes of the contest, including three times in the first minute against Drexel alone. It’s not new or necessarily either teams fault – a 2014 KenPom study showed Jerry Heater as number five in the country in “fouls called”. With a physical game planned by both coaches, this game never had a chance to be played given the officiating crew that was assigned to it. And that’s something the CAA needs to work with the officials pool to avoid in the future, as no coach, player or fan showed up to the SECU Arena to watch these teams not be allowed to play how they intended to play.
When the game began, Drexel jumped out to a quick lead, 11-5 at the under 16 minute timeout and were looking to take things at the home Tigers. Then, a mixture of empty possessions mixed with trigger happy officiating took a Drexel team that showed up with fight quickly out of the action. Against the most physical team in the conference, the Dragons only were able to put a veteran center on the floor for 28 minutes, as Austin Williams fouled out in 17 minutes and his backup, Tyshawn Myles fouled out in just 11 minutes. As Coach Spiker noted, this team just doesn’t have depth like a Towson does, and it quickly showed. On the offensive side, short tempers led to short fuses, and the shots came much too quickly and out of sync with the offense. Players selling out for fouls went to the ground while the ball clanged off the rim and Towson started fastbreaks the other way, leading to 13 fastbreak points for the Tigers.
The Tigers hit 30 points from the foul line in the contest. They had 13 fast break points. They beat up on the backup forwards of the Dragons to the tune of 21 second chance points. That is 64 total points scored outside of the flow of regular half court offense. Drexel scored 68 points total. Ballgame.
Coach Spiker has impressed that the Dragons need to use each game to learn. He pulled Kurk Lee aside early in the second half to ensure they were on the same page. Half the team (including the coach) narrowly avoided technical foul calls during the contest until Troy Harper was given one for running his mouth, and he was benched immediately after with the Coach calling that “unacceptable” during the postgame. They are learning. Tramaine Isabell is playing within the system and has become a much better player for this team as the season has unfolded. Those watching the team at Towson saw a defensive improvement in the moments that the Dragons were allowed to play defense. They saw a staff that is beginning to allow the players to slow things down and work at a pace that they are more ready for.
And they saw that Drexel doesn’t have the depth to contend with top teams in this league when the whistles are trigger happy. It’s year two of the rebuild. Depth is a luxury that few year two teams have.
The Dragons move on to JMU on Saturday. Coach Spiker’s Dragons teams are still looking for their first CAA road win, and with opportunities at UNCW and Delaware already gone, this may be the best last chance this season. The game tips at 4pm in Harrisonburg.
Miles Overton missed the game due to a back problem. He is not on the trip and then not be expected at the JMU contest. This back problem is unrelated to the calf he missed the prior game with.