Last year, Denise Dillon’s Drexel Women’s Basketball program went 22-11 and played until their season ended in the second round of the WNIT. That was the final game in the Drexel careers of Sarah Curran, Jessica Pellechio and Meghan Creighton. Those three were the teams three leading scorers, the three leading free throw shooters and three of the top five rebounders.
With a younger team this season and no impact scorer coming onto campus the current years edition of the team was expected by many to take a step backwards from the prior year. They began the year thought to be postseason longshots. The Dragon players and coaches have let everyone know that seasons, as it turns out, aren’t won on paper. They just hit the halfway point of the CAA season at 8-1, 42nd nationally in the RPI and on a six game winning streak.
In this Sunday’s Homecoming game against Northeastern University it wasn’t the finesse, spot up shooters of years past that got it done. It was clean, physical and fast basketball that had the Dragons in control for most of the contest. Northeastern scored on four consecutive possessions (include three triples) to open up the fourth quarter and give the Dragons a late scare, but a key three pointer by senior Megan Marecic turned the tide and a Aubree Brown steal and score gave the Dragons a lead that they never looked back from. They hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to put things away.
“The effort is tremendous” said Coach Dillon. Without the spot up shooters she has seemed to have always had at DU, from Creighton to Mershon to Rosseel, there had to be a different answer this year. The team had to be re-invented, and they were: They are doing it with hustle. “Size-wise we’re in the same position we’ve been in in past years… we may be outmatched size-wise, we might not have enough shooters on the floor but we’re finding different ways to score.”
The numbers agree. Despite being a smaller team, the Dragons are about even with their CAA opponents when it comes to points in the paint (and well ahead before Elon beat them 40-18 on Friday night, in a game the Dragons went on to win despite getting hammered in the paint.) No where does the hustle plays show more than in the “points off turnover” box. In CAA play, the Dragons have only once been on the wrong side of that number (17-19 at JMU) and they are averaging a 6.5 point per game advantage over their opponents. So when Aubree Brown made that late game steal and score on Sunday to give her team the lead it looked like a special play, but on this team, it just seems to be what they do.
And while some may be concerned about a young team come tournament time, they should look back to this game. While the 9 person rotation was made up largely of underclassmen, in the second half, when the team took a punch from the Northeastern offense and the Huskies appeared to have the momentum, the senior leaders showed themselves. It was a senior, Megan Marecic, that three tied up the game. And with the full intensity of the Huskies defense baring down on them and shots tough to come by, it was the senior class of Marecic, Lidge and Woods (who played while under the weather) who scored 13 of the teams 18 fourth quarter points.
Leadership, hustle, speed and intelligence. That makes for a good ballclub. The Drexel women had just one second half turnover. They handled the pressure and they let their seniors lead them. It’s a show that Drexel fans would do well to take a look at.
This team that is doing the little things right will be hosting the CAA tournament in March with a very real, and very unexpected, chance to dance. See you there.