By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
James Madison 78, Drexel 56 – Box Score
Sometimes as basketball fans, you think you have a matchup figured out on paper, but then sports happen and some wholly unexpected result takes place. Unfortunately for Drexel fans, Thursday night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center was not one of those nights.
The Dragons entered play last in the CAA in field goal percentage (38.4%) , and next-to-last in three-point percentage (32.3%). Meanwhile, JMU arrived as not only the best defensive team in the conference, but on pace to set school records in FG% defense (39.8%) and 3PT% defense (28.4%). It was the recipe for perfect disaster for the Dragons, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly how things played out.
Following a hot start that saw Drexel go up 13-4, the Dukes took control with a huge 21-3 spurt. Drexel went over 10 minutes of game time without making a field goal, as JMU completing shut off the lane and forced the Dragons to shoot one long-range bomb after another, all of them inevitably finding nothing but iron. Drexel coach Bruiser Flint commented on that strategy after the game:
“What they do is, they double-team the big guys, pretty much daring your guards to shoot the ball. It was the same exact game [to Drexel’s 23-point loss at James Madison a few weeks ago].”
By night’s end, JMU would maintain their program-best marks, with the Dragons shooting 28.3% from the field and 28.6% from three. Forward Kazembe Abif had a nice game down low, with 10 points and 10 rebounds for his 4th double-double of the season. However, the Dragons’ four main perimeter players, Sammy Mojica, Tavon Allen, Rashaan London, and Terrell Allen, combined to shoot 9-47 (19.1%). Coach Flint lamented the shooting woes of his team, a struggle all season long:
“Actually, you’d have to say they’re just not good shooters when you just continually, continually not do it…It’s not like we’re not open. Honestly, you don’t have to really guard us…You shoot 37% for a season, that means you’re a really bad shooting team.”
For the Dukes, local guy Yohanny Dalembert, formerly of Lower Merion and the half-brother of former Sixer Sam Dalembert, dominated on the interior. Dalembert finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, including six rips on the offensive glass; he was a big reason JMU outscored the Dragons 38-16 on points in the paint. James Madison coach Matt Brady discussed how important Dalembert is to his team’s success:
“Yohanny’s a big part of who we are as a team, and when he plays like that, we’re pretty good…when he’s active and aggressive and getting to the rim, he’s a hard matchup. He’s got quickness and power, he’s got some up-and-under moves; he’s a good player.”
Also, for JMU, star guard Ron Curry was actually quiet early on, going the first 12-plus minutes of the game before recording his first points. Still, the name Curry is practically synonymous with scoring the basketball at any level these days, and Ron would wind up with a game-high 16 points by night’s end. That effort marks 16 straight games scoring in double figures for Curry. Coach Brady had nice things to say about his senior guard following the contest:
“Ron’s been dynamite for JMU and he’s had a tremendous career. For sure, he’s been the best defensive point guard in our league the last two seasons, in my opinion. He’s a really good player, and [I’m] hoping he finishes up with a flurry, because he’s a talented kid.”
As for Drexel, this season is reaching new lows for the program.
Tonight’s loss ties Bruiser Flint’s longest losing streak (7) at Drexel. One more loss ties his most losses in a season (20) at Drexel.
— Adam Hermann (@AdamWHermann) February 5, 2016
With seven games left in the regular season, you’d like to think the Dragons would be able to find some things to build on heading into next season. The way this team has been unable to find the bucket this season though, it’s going to be a tough sell for fans west of the Schuylkill.