Final Score: UCONN 97, Drexel 65
Drexel Player of the Game: Troy Harper
Key to the Game: Lessons to learn
When looking over the Drexel out of conference schedule, there was without a question one game that would be their biggest challenge: the December 18th game on the road against UCONN. The Huskies, who have yet to play a true road game this season, came into the night with a 7-1 record at home, 8-3 overall. Tuesday’s game would be the first meeting in history between these two teams.
Drexel looked ready to compete from the opening tip. The first four-minute segment saw them trail the Huskie 11-8, backed by a pair of dunks by James Butler. The next eight minutes though would be all Huskies. When Zach Spiker burned his first timeout of the night with 8:42 remaining, his team found themselves trailing 25-11.
With roughly 13 minutes remaining, Troy Harper went to the floor with an apparent injury. He was helped to the bench by his teammates and appeared to be unable to put any weight on his right leg. He would return to the game four minutes later, but he did not look to be 100%. Still though, a 90% Troy Harper brings a lot of offensive energy to the court, and tonight was no exception. Unlike Sunday’s contest against Qunnipiac, the referees showed themselves to be ready to use their whistle. There was a total of 20 fouls called in the first half, four of which Harper was a direct beneficiary of. The senior guard finished the half with a team high 12 points.
Of the 20 first half fouls called, 9 of them went against Drexel. The Dragons found themselves in foul trouble for the first time this year. Both Butler and Tim Perry Jr found themselves with two fouls each resulting in a rare appearance by Tadas Kararinas. Drexel used ten players in the first half, and despite his presence in uniform on the sideline, none of them were named Kurk Lee. The fact that Lee donned a uniform tonight though is a good sign that he is inching closer to a return to the court.
Despite the foul trouble and some impressive runs by the Huskies, Drexel went to the locker room trailing by just 14 points, 42-28. They rebounded well, pulling down 8 offensive boards, however they failed to cash in on many of them. UCONN’s depth and pace combined with the 9 first half fouls pushed Spiker deeper into his bench than he probably wanted to go.
UCONN came out firing in the second half, making 7 of their first 9 attempts from the field. By the U12 timeout, UCONN had extended their lead to 68-43. They effectively took over the game, as predicted. Drexel lacked the offensive power to run with UCONN and trade buckets and their defense lacked the stopping ability to keep the Huskies from putting points on the board.
For the second game in a row, Trevor John was the most effectively scouted player on the floor. Much like Quinnipiac, UCONN effectively handcuffed the Dragons’ most dangerous perimeter threat. Every time John touched the ball, UCONN coach Dan Hurley could be heard yelling “Shooter!” from the sideline. They knew who he was, and where he would be on the floor. While some might think that Spiker tipped his hand on John a little too early in the year, the grad transfer is a specific type of player. With a little scouting, this was bound to happen sooner or later.
The Drexel Player of the Game for Tuesday’s contest goes to Troy Harper. Despite his injury in the first half Harper finished the game with twenty points on 6 of 10 shooting. He made 7 of his 8 free throw attempts on the night. He also recorded his 1,000th career NCAA point, the first 578 recorded with Campbell.
At the end of the night, UCONN proved to be too much for Drexel. The Dragons came out on the losing end to one of the top 50 programs in the country. Dan Hurley is in his first year at UCONN and is on his way to building something special as he takes the next step in his career. While they were clearly beaten by the better team on the court, Drexel fought hard. The energy level of the team on the floor never dropped. Troy Harper played a good part of the final 30 minutes of the game injured. Cam Wynter fought hard and put up a good effort especially for a freshman against a program of this stature. His emotions got the best of him though as he picked up a technical along with his fifth foul of the game. His overall performance should not be defined by that one play when the game was out of reach, but his coach rightfully called it unacceptable in his postgame radio interview.
If nothing else, the Dragons, their younger players especially, got some experience on the court against a premier college basketball program. All four freshmen who played recorded double digits in minutes. Drexel’s two freshman point guards, Wynter and Matey Juric, continued to hold down a work load neither of them likely expected to in the beginning of the season. Tim Perry Jr showed some impressive foot speed in his 10 minutes on the floor. A 30-point loss is a tough one to swallow, but the game was not without its positives.
Now it’s back to Philadelphia for a Saturday contest at the Palestra against the Temple Owls.