If you follow the CAA, what's the one thing that comes to mind when you think of Drexel? Well you might consider "physical," considering the type of style the Dragons play. You might also consider "intense," because that's how head coach Bruiser Flint coaches.
Well, when I think of Drexel, I think of the CAA's likely copyrighted phrase "rock fight." It's a term that has often described CAA play. But when it comes to rock fights, no team does it better than the Dragons. Low scoring, physical, close games with both teams scoring in the 50s. More often than not in its history under Bruiser, Drexel usually has come out on top thanks to its very good defense and its just-good-enough offense.
Then came this season. The Dragons were 16-2 in the conference, finishing first in the regular season. Yes, they were first in the CAA in scoring defense, second in field-goal percentage defense, first in three-point field-goal percentage defense and first in rebounding. This season's team was Drexel defense at its finest.
But thanks in large part to the development of sophomore guard Frantz Massenat, freshman Damion Lee and returming stalwarts Chris Fouch and Samme Givens, the Dragons have had their best offense in a long time. Drexel was first in the CAA in three-point field-goal percentage and third in field-goal percentage.
And not only was this the first Dragons team in their CAA history to shoot above 70 percent from the foul line, they actually led the Colonial in free-throw percentage at nearly 75 percent. The Dragons actually led the CAA in scoring margin at +9.4 points per game. Drexel: offensive juggernaut.
The Dragons immediately showed off their offensive prowess against the Seahawks of UNCW, hitting their first four shots from the field to jump out to a 9-4 lead. But UNCW responded with a 12-4 spurt to jump ahead 16-13, which allowed the Old Dominion fans in attendance for the next game to roar in approval, since ODU was Drexel's likely next opponent. It wasn't like the Dragons were playing bad defense. The Seahawks were just hitting tough shots, like Cedrick Williams' turnaround jumper that put UNCW up 12-10.
Still the Seahawks were beating the Dragons at their own game. In the first half, UNCW outrebounded Drexel 19-11, and they got Givens, Drexel's leading rebounder, in foul trouble with two fouls. The Seahawks were still up 18-17 with six minutes left in the half.
However, the Dragons rallied, as they outscored the Seahawks 10-4 the rest of the first half. Massenat came alive with several pretty passes for three assists in the final six minutes. One of the passes was thrown through traffic with such precision that Peyton Manning would have been proud. Then came a loose ball right by the Drexel bench where it almost looked like Bruiser Flint wanted to jump into the pile. The Dragons entered halftime up 27-22 on a driving layup, by who else, Massenat.
Interestingly, Flint left Givens on the bench to start the second half. It didn't seem to matter, as Drexel came out and outscored UNCW 24-11 in the first 10 minutes. Everyone in Drexel's rotation contributed, even Givens who finally came off the bench five minutes in the second half. The Dragons were up 51-33 and the game was basically over.
In the nine years that I have watched the CAA Tournament, Drexel had never had as large a student section as they did for this tournament. The DACPack was large and in charge, with a resounding "D-U" chant with the Dragons' contingent of fans behind their bench. Considering how Virginia-based the Colonial Athletic Association conference is, it was a welcome thing to see.
As for the Seahawks, they didn't give up. They cut the lead down to 10 with about two minutes left in the game, but they never got any closer. The Dragons would win the game 59-47.
Drexel did an excellent job on UNCW's star player, Keith Rendleman. Rendleman only scored 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field. Often, it seemed that he was literally bouncing off Drexel's mammoth Darryl McCoy, who's listed at 270 pounds, but as Shaka Smart noted the next day "That's a joke." McCoy would foul out later after hammering Rendleman on a shot attempt, but not before the "270-pound" big man had 10 rebounds on the day.
Rendleman, the fourth leading rebounder in the CAA at 10 rebounds per game, also didn't have one single rebound in the entire game. When asked in the postgame press conference if he ever had a game in his life, including the grade school level, where he didn't have at least one rebound, Rendleman replied, "never." Drexel also limited UNCW as a whole to 26 percent shooting in the second half. That's how good Drexel's defense was on the day.
As for the Dragons' offense, they shot 48 percent in the second half. Four players averaged in double figures; Fouch had 14 points, Massenat and Givens each had 11 and Lee had 10 points. Drexel outrebounded UNCW 24-13 in the second half.
As the Dragons' student section cheered in approval at the end of the game, the final score indicated one thing: another rock fight won by Drexel.
DREXEL 59, NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 47 03/03/2012
NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 10-21 (5-13) -- D. Morales 4-7 3-3 13; K. Rendleman 3-9 4-5 10; A. Smith 3-10 0-0 7; T. Milson 4-11 0-0 11; C. Williams 2-6 0-0 4; S. Reybold 1-3 0-0 2; F. Jackson 0-3 0-0 0; T. Deloach 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-49 7-8 47. DREXEL 26-5 (16-2) -- D. Lee 4-9 2-3 10; C. Fouch 6-14 0-2 14; F. Massenat 4-10 2-2 11; S. Givens 5-7 1-4 11; D. McCoy 2-5 2-2 6; D. Ruffin 2-5 3-3 7; A. Younger 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 10-16 59.
Three-point goals: UNCW 6-13 (T. Milson 3-6; D. Morales 2-2; F. Jackson 0-1; A. Smith 1-4), DREX 3-17 (C. Fouch 2-9; F. Massenat 1-1; A. Younger 0-2; D. Lee 0-5); Rebounds: UNCW 29 (D. Morales 9), DREX 31 (D. McCoy 10); Assists: UNCW 9 (T. Milson 3), DREX 8 (F. Massenat 4); Total Fouls -- UNCW 15, DREX 11; Fouled Out: UNCW-None; DREX-D. McCoy.