What's more dramatic than a confession? OK, here goes: this past Sunday was my first time ever seeing a game at the Daskalakis Athletic Center on the campus of Drexel University. I know! Despite living not more than ten blocks away for four years as an undergrad at neighboring Penn and having made numerous trips to Philadelphia for games at the Palestra just a few blocks away since then, I never had gone to a game at the DAC. Can't really say why, but whatever the reason, when fellow 800gp-er and editor John Willmott (who already wrote about Drexel earlier this season) was kind enough to help get me a ticket to Sunday's NIT game to move us one step closer to 800 I knew it was time. Past time, actually. I don't need to tell you that this year's Drexel team has been the subject of much debate and discussion since they finished the regular season by winning their last 17 (!) games, lost only in the CAA tournament final, and nevertheless did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. The DAC itself is similarly controversial, with its brightly-painted floor and also this big, slightly freaky inflatable dragon that I'm pretty glad I don't have to huddle underneath.
Mostly, though, I was interested to experience a game at the DAC because of the ongoing controversy about whether, and under what circumstances, the other Philadelphia schools (who play each other yearly in a round robin via the Big Five) should schedule Drexel. I am often told one thing that makes this difficult is that the DAC is so much smaller than the arenas at the other schools. It's true that the DAC only seats about 2,500, while the smallest Big Five arena is La Salle's Tom Gola Arena, which seats 4,000 (and of course others seat significantly more). I don't know enough about what I assume are the various factors involved in this debate (money, personal politics, TV, conference affiliations, etc.) to assess what the right outcome is. I gather that at least some Drexel partisans feel "disrespected," but as Dom Pody described, it can be difficult to separate this from a more general Philadelphia sports fan attitude (especially for a true outsider like me).
Whatever anyone might say about the DAC itself, I was impressed (though not surprised) that the fans and especially the Drexel students turned this potentially sleepy game (11am start on the Sunday after St. Patrick's Day? really?) into an energetic environment to support their team. Drexel jumped out to a 15-point lead about midway through the first half, especially due to some hot superhooping by Chris Fouch.
Northern Iowa, though, pulled to within 10 by halftime. Things started a bit slowly in the second half for both teams. Then I got distracted by a Drexel student who, possibly having been egged on by the Drexel women's basketball players sitting a few rows behind me, ran out onto the floor opposite the authorized Drexel cheer squad and led her own, um, cheer, before being ejected (to the requisite chorus of boos). And then I was distracted by a celebrity sighting - Penn senior center/forward/guard (depending on the year) Rob Belcore walked in and sat just a few rows behind me! By the time we all got our heads back in the game, Northern Iowa was within five. They kept it close the rest of the way, but Drexel was able to hold off the comeback and move one step closer to the NIT championship. I'm sure it's probably not their first choice of post-season goals, but if I had the famous Bruiser Flint yelling, stomping, and jumping up and down in my general direction as they do, I'd probably do just about anything I could to win. Pretty eventful for a ghostbracket.
at DREXEL 65, NORTHERN IOWA 63 03/18/2012
NORTHERN IOWA 20-14 (9-9) -- J. Moran 6-14 2-2 19; M. Sonnen 3-8 0-0 8; S. Tuttle 4-4 1-3 9; A. James 2-7 2-2 6; D. Mitchell 2-5 0-0 5; J. Koch 1-3 3-4 5; C. Rank 2-4 0-0 5; A. Pehl 1-2 1-2 3; M. Morrison 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 22-48 9-13 63. DREXEL 29-6 (16-2) -- D. Thomas 2-7 0-0 6; F. Massenat 3-9 4-8 11; S. Givens 11-13 6-9 28; C. Fouch 6-9 0-0 16; D. McCoy 1-4 0-0 2; D. Ruffin 0-0 0-0 0; D. Lee 0-2 2-2 2; A. Younger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-44 12-19 65.
Three-point goals: UNI 10-23 (J. Koch 0-1; J. Moran 5-11; M. Morrison 1-1; M. Sonnen 2-5; C. Rank 1-2; D. Mitchell 1-3), DREX 7-10 (C. Fouch 4-6; D. Thomas 2-3; F. Massenat 1-1); Rebounds: UNI 30 (J. Moran 8), DREX 20 (S. Givens 5); Assists: UNI 11 (J. Koch 4), DREX 15 (S. Givens 3); Total Fouls -- UNI 18, DREX 15; Fouled Out: UNI-J. Koch; DREX-None.