By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Drexel 66, La Salle 53 – Box Score
Drexel and La Salle are two schools separated by just 8 miles who might as well have been worlds apart entering play Saturday afternoon. Despite a close loss to Hofstra earlier this week, the Explorers still held a solid 4-2 record on the year and featured the second-leading scorer in the nation in Jordan Price. Meanwhile, the Dragons were still winless on the season at 0-6 after dropping three straight games last week in the Great Alaska Shootout.
However, once the ball was tipped, the two clubs underwent a complete role reversal. You might as well have thrown the records out the window, which was a theme touched upon by both coaches in the post-game press conference.
Drexel coach Bruister Flint remarked, “What we talked about in the pregame was forget the board, forget what your gameplan is, let’s go out there and get one. Throw everything out the window and just go out and get a win because you need one.”
The pivotal stretch of the game was a 10-0 Drexel run to put the Dragons ahead 28-22 late in the first half, a lead they would never relinquish. The run was buoyed by Drexel senior wing Tavon Allen, who hit two threes across that stretch and was easily the best player on the floor for either side. Allen tied a career-high with 25 points, shooting an extremely efficient 7-11 from the field, including a perfect 3-3 from three and 8-8 from the foul line. Allen attributed his success on the afternoon to “just taking my time, seeing the floor better. Definitely just taking smart shots is the biggest thing for me.”
Coach Flint gave high praise for his senior after the game: “I thought Tavon had probably the best game he’s ever had as a Drexel player, both ends of the floor.”
That other end of the floor was critical, as Allen and teammates did an excellent job limiting La Salle star Jordan Price. Price’s 19 points were well below his 27.0 ppg season average, as he shot just 5-14 from the field, while committing 5 turnovers. Coach Flint detailed his team’s strategy for dealing with the Explorers’ top scorer.
“We didn’t want him to shoot threes. We wanted him to drive at the basket. Him, Shuler, and Roberts. Make them move their feet to score, instead of shooting set shots.”
The strategy worked, as Price attempted just 5 threes on the afternoon. He entered play averaging over 4 made threes per game, but connected on just one against the Dragons. Yet, with Price coming off a career-high 37 points against Hofstra, La Salle coach John Giannini had a different explanation for his team’s struggles.
“I think when Jordan had that 37-point game that it’s natural to start to get more Jordan-centric. And he wants to win so bad and I think that when you’re in that situation, you can try to do too much. And I think we were way too predictable that way, but we’ve been evolving into that largely because he’s playing so well and other people are not.”
While Price wasn’t receiving any help from his teammates, Allen did, particularly from big man Rodney Williams. Williams tallied 14 points and a season-high 13 rebounds, helping Drexel to a 41-32 advantage on the boards. Allen spoke to how the inside-out game benefited the Dragons.
“It makes it so much easier for the guards, because they have to focus on the bigs too. The kick-outs are there and it just opens up the floor more for us on offense.”
With their first win of the season now on the books, the Dragons will need to maintain that balance if they hope to make it two straight against an undefeated South Carolina team December 15th. The Explorers will continue to look for someone to help out Jordan Price; they’ll need all the help they can get with their next two contests against ranked opponents in Villanova and Miami.