What: Drexel (2-6) at Princeton (3-4)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jadwin Gymnasium
After last season’s 27-6 record and subsequent snubbing from the NCAA Tournament, Drexel’s goal for this season was as clear as could be: Keep their tournament fate out of the hands of the selection committee.
The good news: Drexel has accomplished their goal.
The bad news: Accomplishing their goal has not come the way that the team or their faithful followers had initially envisioned.
Owners of a 2-6 record, the Dragons have essentially played themselves out of an NCAA Tournament at-large berth only eight games into the season. But how, how has a season born to such high expectations and so much promise turned to desperation so quickly? Head coach Bruiser Flint summed up this head scratcher of a season thus far in presumably the same way anybody else in Drexel Nation would when he repeated after Tuesday night’s 76-66 loss at Tennessee State, “I’m at a loss for words right now.”
The message has been consistent all season. It’s the team’s defensive effort. It’s the turnovers. It’s the little things. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the season so far is that Drexel is close to making their run. The Dragons have shown flashes on offense and even on defense, but nothing can be sustained throughout the full 40 minutes. Flint said after the last loss, “We absolutely cannot sustain anything.”
Flint also optimistically said, “It’s a long season and one day it might just click and we start doing the things that I know we can do.”
What if that day is Saturday at Princeton?
It’s hard to remember, but last season the Dragons started off 2-4. They were reeling, searching for answers just as they are this year. Then, suddenly and out of nowhere, it clicked. It clicked on Dec. 10 at the DAC against, you guessed it, Princeton. After the win against the Tigers, Drexel reeled off 25 wins in their next 26 games on their way to the CAA Championship game and a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
The parallels are there this season. The Dragons are 2-6 with a matchup at Princeton looming on Dec. 8, almost one year ago to the day that something clicked for Drexel last year.
“It’s a different season and we’re not playing the same. Last year at this point in time I think that we played good defensively but were bad on offense,” Flint said. Even though the team’s struggles have been on defense this year, it is tough to ignore the similarities.
Flint wondered aloud repeatedly on Tuesday night, “What are you gonna do?”
Later he answered his own question and said, “We just have to get ready for the next game. We have to hurt a little bit more and we have to get ready for the next game. We have to go to practice and get ourselves ready and prepare.”
At 2-6, how much more hurting does this team need before it clicks?
As bewildering as the season has been and as much as an NCAA Tournament at-large berth has faded away, the season is not over. There is still hope, and Flint knows it.
“In the end, if you win your conference tournament, you go where you want to go,” he said.
-Scouting Drexel: After holding opponents to 56.1 points per game on 39.2% shooting from the field last season, Drexel is allowing 69.2 points per game on 46.1% shooting from the field this season. … Senior forward Daryl McCoy played his best game of the season in Tuesday night’s loss to Tennessee State with a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double in 35 minutes. … With 18 points on Tuesday night, Damion Lee continues his hot streak averaging 20.3 points per game over the last four games. … While outscoring teams 244-239 in the first half, Drexel is getting outscored 293-263 in the second half of games this season.
-Scouting Princeton: Senior forward Ian Hummer is the only Princeton player averaging double-digit points with 14.4 points per game. … Clay Wilson is a dangerous threat off of the bench for the Tigers with 8.7 points per game and 44.2% shooting from behind the arc, both good for second on the team. … The Tigers only average 57.7 points per game on offense; however, they allow only 57.4 points per game on defense. … Princeton turns the ball over 15.3 times per game, but forces 15.7 turnovers per game on defense.
-Sound Off: Will this be the game that the Dragons finally click?
Having nothing to do with the irony that Drexel’s season clicked last year against Princeton, the Tigers are a team that could help the Dragons snap out of their funk. Drexel’s struggles have come mainly on the defensive end and especially in the paint. As if this was not abundantly clear before Tuesday’s game, Tennessee State’s top two forwards Robert Covington and Kellen Thornton combined for 37 points and 12 boards.
Princeton only has one threat like that with Ian Hummer. Hummer has the potential to score big as he showed in his 28 point outburst versus Lafayette earlier in the year. He is also a relatively small big man at only 6-foot-7. The Dragons were able to hold him to 18 points in last year’s matchup while shutting down the rest of the team. If Drexel can repeat their defensive performance against Hummer, then this could be the game that gets the ball rolling for the Dragons especially with a winnable game at Fairfield coming up next.