After a surprising 0-2 start to the season, Drexel faced more difficulty before and during its meeting with 33rd Street rival Penn on Saturday at the Palestra.
Already without sharpshooter Damion Lee due to a head/neck injury suffered against Illinois State, the Dragons had to overcome the absence of top sixth man Chris Fouch for much of the second half.
Fouch, whose career has been marked by injuries, went down with an apparent ankle injury and had to leave the gym on crutches.
In the end though, the Dragons were able to overcome these setbacks, as well as a game-high 21 points from Penn’s Fran Dougherty, to turn back the Quakers 61-59.
Dartaye Ruffin and Tavon Allen, a redshirt freshman seeing his first significant action for Drexel, led the way for the Dragons with 15 points apiece. All 15 of Allen’s points came after halftime.
“I’ve been telling him that his opportunity is going to be there for him and he’s gotta take advantage of it,” Dragons coach Bruiser Flint said of Allen’s performance. “And he did tonight. He was a little nervous out there in the beginning, but in the second half he settled down.”
The Dragons held a two-point lead in the final seconds after Frantz Massenat made 1 of 2 free throws, but Penn’s Miles Cartwright lost the ball driving to the basket with 1.3 seconds left to allow Drexel (1-2) to earn its first win.
The Quakers (1-3) have a quick turnaround, playing Fordham at Lehigh on Monday before meeting the host Mountain Hawks on Tuesday in a consolation bracket of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
A big reason why was Allen who came ready to play after getting news that Lee would be out. He was needed even more when Fouch went down shortly after the under 16-minute media timeout with an apparent ankle injury after coming down awkwardly and possibly stepping on a cameraman’s foot under the basket.
“I felt like I had to step up today and contribute to my team, play a lot of defense, and just help us get the ‘W’ today,” Allen said.
Fouch ultimately did not return to the game. He left the Palestra with crutches and a walking boot, so Allen could be in line for more minutes in the very near future as Drexel heads out west for the Anaheim Classic, which begins Thursday.
Daryl McCoy also played a huge role down the stretch in containing Penn’s Dougherty and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds after being relatively nonexistent in the team’s first two games.
Flint joked with McCoy after the game.
“I asked him, ‘Are you the guy from Texas A&M? We gotta call to find out where you are? We’re a little nervous,’” Flint said, referring to A&M receiver Thomas Johnson who was found safe after disappearing for three days. “The first two games I haven’t seen him. That wide receiver from Texas A&M that they couldn’t find for two days, well I couldn’t find Daryl for two games.”
Kaz Abif also contributed some more quality minutes that included a momentum swinging dunk in the first half and a huge block at the start of the second.
In a big surprise, Massenat struggled greatly with four turnovers and only three assists. He scored nine points which leaves him already with two games under 10 points at the onset of the year.
Drexel has now won five straight against Penn in the “Battle of 33rd Street.”
Penn held a one-point lead going into the locker room behind 10 points from the Cartwright, who helped bring the Quakers back from a deficit that reached as many as seven points. The Quakers took advantage of a sloppy end to the half by the Dragons.
Penn head coach Jerome Allen can close out a half time lead with the best of them, coming into the game winning 27 or 32 games in which his team had a halftime lead.
In the end, the Quakers could not hold on though.
Dougherty, the 6-foot-9 junior, contributed a double-double with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. Cartwright contributed 18 points of his own, but also the game-changing turnover with less than two seconds left and the Quakers only down by two.
“I just wanted to come off of the screen and be aggressive,” Cartwright said about the play that caused the turnover. “I came off the screen and saw McCoy come out and hedge really hard, so I tried to cutback and lost the ball.”
Penn’s full-court press helped them get back into the game. With about five minutes left the Quakers were facing a seven-point deficit. The most glaring turnover that they forced was an errant cross-court pass from Derrick Thomas. Penn scored a layup off of the turnover to cut the Drexel lead to one with under 30 seconds left.
-Flint wants Penn at DAC: Following Drexel’s 61-59 over Penn in this year’s edition of the “Battle of 33rd Street,” Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint shared his feelings on the series with Jerome Allen‘s squad.
Flint started off saying, “We love playing these guys, but I’m gonna go back to saying what I’ve been saying for my 12 years here. Let us play the game at DAC and go home-and-home.” He added, “It’d be great. Give us a chance to have the Penn fans come to the DAC.”
Read more from Flint HERE.
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Drexel’s Tavon Allen
Drexel coach Bruiser Flint