By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Drexel 85, UNCW 76 – Box Score
A few weeks ago, a performance from Drexel like we saw this Saturday afternoon was outside the realm of possibility. Back then, points for the Dragons were harder to come by than a Bachelor contestant being there for the right reasons. However, while facing a Seahawks club that was tied for the conference lead entering the game, nothing could have been further from the truth. Drexel was able to score at will throughout the game, dropping a season-high 85 points, easily topping their previous high of 70. Now, Bruiser Flint’s club has won three straight games and finds itself right back in the conference conversation at 5-5 in CAA play.
Facing Kevin Keatts’ UNCW squad that, like Louisville where Keatts was last an assistant, loves to press, the Dragons did a nice job breaking the pressure and getting easy points in transition. Getting out on the break was a big factor in Drexel’s 18-4 run to end the first half, as the Dragons made their final 8 field goals to head into the locker room up 8. Coach Flint speaking to his team’s play in transition: “If they’re going to give us 2-on-1, you have to convert…We had our opportunities to score in odd situations, and we did it.”
Transition buckets weren’t the whole story on the game though, as Drexel shot 60.4% overall from the field. Asked after the game whether he thought his team had it in them to shoot that well, Bruiser Flint replied, “Every dog has its day.” Of course, it helps to receive another dominant effort from the conference’s leading scorer, Damion Lee.
Lee finished with 32 points on 10-14 shooting and a career-high 13 rebounds. When UNCW went on a 10-0 run to cut the Dragon’s 19-point lead down to 9 in the closing minutes, it was Lee who hit the big shot to end the skid. After the Seahawks then made it a 6-point game, Lee again stepped up, driving to the hoop for a three-point play that finally put the nail in the coffin. The star wing is everything a coach would want in a player: he works hard off screens to get open offensively, does the dirty work on the defensive end and the glass, and takes care of the fundamentals (he hit 10 of 11 free throws on the game and has made 52 of his last 54). With Drexel finally starting to string some wins together, Lee will certainly earn some well-deserved looks as conference player of the year.
Of course, Lee has been playing like this all season; the reason Drexel is finally starting to win some games is the emergence of players around him, particularly freshman Sammy Mojica and sophomore Rodney Williams. Mojica shot 6-8 from the field (including 3-4 from three) for a career-high 17 points, the third straight game he’s finished in double figures. His scoring off the bench has taken some of the offensive burden off Lee’s shoulders. Flint on his freshman’s play: “Sammy’s been really good. He’s been a big difference in the games, not only scoring points but [making] unbelievable hustle plays.”
Williams, playing his second game after missing 8 straight with a foot injury, also shot 6-8 for 13 points. He provides a threat offensively down low that was sorely lacking earlier during the Dragons’ long losing streak. Lee commented following the win, “Whoever contributes and is ready to step up when they get it, we’re happy with that.”
The freshmen are starting to find their footing at the collegiate level, players are returning from injury, and Bruiser Flint is finally beginning to see the team on the court he envisioned at the beginning of the season. With Lee playing as well as anyone in the Colonial and his teammates starting to come to life, who knows how far these Dragons can fly.