Final Score: Drexel 91, William & Mary 79
Key to the Game: Team play
Drexel Player of the Game: Tramaine Isabell
Next Game: Thursday, February 8 7pm vs. Towson
When William & Mary came to the DAC nearly a month ago, they dominated the Drexel Dragons, humiliating them on their home court. It was almost a replay of what happened last season when The Tribe handed Drexel a 108-85 beating in Williamsburg, VA. Last year, Zach Spiker’s Dragons came back to the DAC with something to prove. This year they headed to Williamsburg with a three game winning streak and revenge on their minds.
Drexel seemed to have an answer for every attempt and every point scored by William & Mary in the first half. The two teams traded made shot after made shot, shooting a combined 59.6% from the field. Three Tribe players combined for 33 of their team’s 45 first half points while Tramaine Isabell led Drexel with 10, followed closely by Kurk Lee and Austin Williams who had 8 each. The Tribe scored 1.452 points per possession converting on 58.1% of their possessions while Drexel kept things close with 1.290 points per possession and 54.8% scoring possessions.
Once again, the story of the half was turnovers. Luckily for Drexel they were able to shoot well. The Dragons had five turnovers while The Tribe did not give the ball up once. The score was 45-40 with The Tribe leading at the end of the first half. The Dragons were in it, and as they showed in the second frame, they had a lot left in their tank.
If one was to find the turning point in this game, it came with just under 11 minutes to go. William & Mary’s lead had grown to seven when Kurk Lee took a three that was contested by David Cohn. Cohn, who otherwise had a brilliant game, matching a career high with 26 points for the third time this season, committed the ultimate sin: he fouled Lee as the shot found its way through the hoop. Lee stepped to the line and converted the four point play. That is when the Dragons started their push.
With just under eight minutes remaining in the game and Drexel trailing 64-63, Zach Spiker settled on a unit to rely on down the stretch, a tactic that he used on Thursday against JMU. This time though it was Kurk Lee, Tramaine Isabell, Sammy Mojica, Austin Williams and Alihan Demir. Drexel’s next substitution occurred with 36 seconds remaining in the game when Troy Harper returned to the floor. What happened in the nearly seven minutes in between was remarkable. Drexel held the high scoring, sharp shooting Tribe to just nine points while pouring in 20 of their own.
Drexel closed the game with 9 successful free throws on 10 attempts and a breakaway dunk by Troy Harper in the final seconds. This complete effort ended in a victory for the Drexel Dragons by a score of 91-79.
Spiker was rightfully pleased with his team’s overall performance saying, “We were connected on the offensive end in a major way and I thought we really competed on the defensive end.” He gave credit to his team for holding William & Mary to just 24 attempted threes. That is something that he has spoken to in the past, saying that it’s not just the percentage that they aim to keep low but also the number of attempts that a team gets. While Drexel’s defense had struggled in conference play, to their credit they have showed some signs of improvement in recent games, and holding the best offensive team in the conference, and one of the best three point shooting teams in the nation to the numbers that they put up on Saturday afternoon is a great accomplishment.
On the offensive side of the floor, Drexel took full advantage of a substandard William & Mary defensive team. Their 72.1% effective field goal percentage was the second highest that they’ve put up in the last fifteen seasons. Their 91 points ties the most scored by a Zach Spiker coached Drexel team in a regulation game.
One other thing that needs not be overlooked is the end of the bad luck run that Drexel has had on the road in CAA play. Not only was Saturday’s victory Spiker’s first CAA road win but it was the team’s first conference win away from Philadelphia since February 20, 2016 when they beat The Tribe 74-69.
There’s no debate: Saturday’s victory was a team win. Every Dragon that took to the hardwood contributed something. Their coach realizes and acknowledges it and so should the fans. Every player who contributed on the offensive side of the play shot over 50% for the game. The team committed six turnovers in the second half and generated 13 points off of William & Mary’s 11 cough ups, all of which came in the second 20 minutes.
The player of the game honor goes to the guy who put up near triple-double numbers: Tramaine Isabell. Drexel’s leading scorer finished the game with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. He shot 8 for 14 from the floor with three of those makes and five attempts being from behind the arc. Spiker’s two point guard approach has allowed Drexel some flexibility in their game play, and Saturday was no exception. Isabell’s performance on the ball gave the coach the opportunity to move Kurk Lee off the ball. Both players benefitted from it as they led their team to a win from the backcourt.
With four consecutive wins in a row, the most since they won six consecutively in the 2014-15 season, Drexel returns to the DAC on Thursday at 7pm for their rematch with Towson as one of the hottest teams in the CAA. Towson will likely be out for blood though after a tough 79-73 loss to JMU on Saturday. The Always a Dragon team will be back on the sideline for Thursday’s contest as Spiker’s Dragons try to extend their winning streak.