By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Drexel 53, Penn 52 (OT) – Box Score
They called it the Battle of 33rd Street. Two schools separated by just a few blocks meeting for the first time in over three years. Following any great battle, the bards and historians go on to sing songs and write tales of glorious victory, leaving out all the ugly, dirty details that make up the vast majority of the experience. Tuesday night’s meeting between Drexel and Penn was no different, an exciting ending masking what was largely an ugly affair.
This game was a slog. Drexel shot just 29.1% from the field. They won the game. The Dragons overcame that lack of marksmanship by grinding away and attacking the basket, getting to the foul line 23 times compared to just 14 attempts for the Quakers. Those points at the charity stripe helped Drexel stay just ahead of Penn for the majority of the night. Still, Quakers guard Antonio Woods had chances to win the game at both the end of regulation and overtime, but each time his jumper found only iron.
Drexel also used their size to create second-chance opportunities, collecting 16 offensive rebounds on their way to a 45-36 advantage on the glass. Kazembe Abif was a star on the interior, recording 13 points and 14 rebounds, his second double-double of the season and fourth of his career. Coach Bruiser Flint praised Abif’s play following the game:
“Honestly, he kept us in the game. We missed every shot…rebounded the ball, kept balls alive, gave us a chance to miss again. (laughter) You watched the game. We shot 29%.”
Abif knew the importance of this game and played accordingly, as he eluded to following the victory:
“This is a big rivalry. We play against them in the summertime, they come over here and play pickup, we go over there and play pickup. I wanted to emphasize to the younger guys…this is bragging rights for the year.”
The Quakers had tried to compete with the size of the Explorers, as coach Steve Donahue gave sophomore forward Mike Auger his first start of the season. Donahue spoke to his team’s lineup change in the post-game press conference:
“We’re still trying to find our identity, how we want to win…we’re not dynamic enough offensively making shots with Matt [Howard] at the 4, and we give up a lot on the defensive end by not having another big.”
Unfortunately, aside from a crucial three-point play late in regulation, Auger was largely ineffective, fouling out in just 18 minutes of play. It also didn’t help that Penn was ice cold from the perimeter, shooting just 3-18 from three on the evening.
Despite his late-game misfires, Antonio Woods was the best player offensively for the Quakers, scoring a game-high 17 points. Coach Donahue was very pleased with the performance from his young guard:
“For a kid that’s just coming into his own as a sophomore…when Tony Hicks left, that basically opened the door for Antonio to be the guy with they ball…scratching the surface on how good he can be.”
Sadly for the Quakers, their last win against a Division 1 opponent is still all the way back on November 25th against La Salle. Coincidentally, the Explorers were responsible for Drexel’s lone win on the season entering play Tuesday night. Hopefully for the Dragons, they can use this win as a foundation to help turn their season around going forward. Drexel may have won the Battle of 33rd Street, but at 2-8, they’re still losing the war.