Game #9-492: Drexel Dragons vs. George Mason PatriotsMarch 9, 2013 3:30 pm
This was supposed to be Drexel's year. A year removed from a heartbreaking snub by the NCAA selection committee, the Dragons were poised and expected to dominate the new-look Colonial. Guard Frantz Massenat was the conference's preseason player of the year, the team's core players were all returning, VCU had left for the greener pastures of the A-10, and the rest of the conference appeared to match up poorly with Bruiser Flint's squad.
There were early warning signs that it was not to be. The Dragons dropped their first two games, to Kent State and Illinois State. But these defeats could be dismissed by the optimistic as overtime losses where luck unfortunately broke the other way. It was Drexel's first win of the season, however, where things really started to unravel. During the 61-59 victory over Penn at the Palestra on November 17, Chris Fouch, a fifth-year senior guard and the team's leading scorer at that point, was felled by a season-ending broken ankle.
DU never recovered from the loss of Fouch's scoring or leadership. They entered the postseason at 13-18, with just a 9-9 record in the weak CAA. With four of the Colonial's teams ineligible for the postseason, that record gave the Dragons a five seed in the seven-team conference tournament, where they faced George Mason; the fourth-seeded Patriots, too, had failed to live up to preseason expectations.
The first half was competitive, with Mason scoring 11 points off turnovers but failing to build a big lead as Drexel clawed back at every turn. It was a four-point Patriots lead at the half.
Then Drexel began to wear down. After Damion Lee's jumper to open the second half scoring pulled the Dragons within two, Mason ripped off a 16-2 run that included six straight points from Sherrod Wright and was capped off by a Bryon Allen steal and massive #omgdunx. A few minutes later, the Patriots were up by 15.
But in keeping with a trend this season for Mason--who dropped a regular season bout with the Dragons after leading by 20--the Patriots let their guard down late. After an incremental comeback, a Massenat trey cut the lead to just four with under five minutes to play. Allen stemmed the bleeding with a superhoop of his own before a Kazembe Abif layup and Lee triple set up a single-possession game in the final minute.
Sharpshooting Patriot Vertrail Vaughns couldn't connect from beyond the arc on the next possession, and Drexel had a chance to tie or take the lead for the first time since the waning minutes of the first half. But Massenat's three-point attempt with 19 ticks on the clock bounced off the rim, Wright and Jonathan Arledge hit their free-throws down the stretch, and, as had happened so many times this season, the Dragons fell just short.
In many ways, Drexel's yearlong mediocrity represents the thoroughly mediocre year of the CAA as a whole. Many thought the conference had a chance at three bids, given the bright outlook of the teams playing in this contest as well as the Delaware Blue Hens. But all three missed plenty of opportunities, and at best are headed for the alphabet soup postseason tournaments, if they get invited anywhere at all.
As for the Patriots, the win was obviously welcome, and as an alumnus, I let out a relieved sigh when they held off the late charge. In hindsight, though, almost losing a 15-point lead was a foreboding sign for the remainder of the tournament. But more on that later.
GEORGE MASON 60, DREXEL 54
DREXEL 13-18 (9-9) -- T. Strange 4-12 0-0 12; D. Thomas 2-11 2-2 7; D. Lee 2-10 6-6 11; F. Massenat 6-14 5-6 20; D. McCoy 1-3 0-0 2; D. Ruffin 2-5 0-0 4; K. Abif 4-4 0-2 8; T. Allen 0-1 0-0 0; A. Younger 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 18-49 13-16 54.
GEORGE MASON 18-13 (10-8) -- B. Allen 5-8 4-4 16; S. Wright 6-11 11-12 23; J. Arledge 1-3 4-4 6; V. Vaughns 4-10 1-2 10; E. Copes 0-1 0-0 0; M. Gujanicic 1-5 0-0 2; C. Edwards 1-7 0-0 3; P. Holloway 0-1 0-0 0; P. Bennett 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 20-22 60.
Three-point goals: DREX 5-19 (D. Thomas 1-5; F. Massenat 3-8; T. Allen 0-1; D. Lee 1-5), GMU 4-17 (V. Vaughns 1-4; S. Wright 0-4; B. Allen 2-3; C. Edwards 1-3; M. Gujanicic 0-2; P. Holloway 0-1); Rebounds: DREX 25 (D. McCoy 12), GMU 25 (J. Arledge 8); Assists: DREX 10 (F. Massenat 4), GMU 3 (V. Vaughns 1); Total Fouls -- DREX 21, GMU 19; Fouled Out: DREX-None; GMU-None.
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