When your team is hard hit by injuries, and the offense is out of synch, what do you do? Drexel Coach Denise Dillon had an answer. Go to you bench. Early in the second half Dillon substituted for all five players on the floor. The bench responded turning a 27 – 20 deficit into a 44 – 38 lead in ten minutes leading the Dragons to a 56 – 46 win over Georgia State at the DAC.
The Drexel team was bit by the injury bug. The Dragons lost Junior Point Guard Marisa Crane for the season as she suffered an ACL injury in the game against Texas – San Antonio. Freshman Guard Jackie Schluth is also out for the season with an ACL injury. At shoot-around the morning of the game Junior Forward Tyler Hale collided with Senior Guard Jasmina Rosseel and Hale is being evaluated for a possible concussion.
Drexel needed a spark. Dillon found one in the play of her bench, especially Sophomore Guard Hollie Mershon who scored 15 second half points to lead the Dragon comeback.
“I did feel an urgency,” said Mershon. “We weren’t setting a tone on defense, we were slow on the offensive end and not running the plays. She put in five new players and we knew we had to make something happen. The five of us took advantage. Once we started hitting shots and playing defense our confidence kept growing and growing. ”
“It was an instinctual thing,” said Dillon. “I was so fed up with watching what was going on out there. The way the second half started, I just couldn’t allow it to happen. It was a lesson at that point not about winning or losing a game. We couldn’t allow stagnant basketball, sluggish basketball. Enough was enough and I was proud of the girls embracing an opportunity. They did what we asked them to do.”
Georgia State led the entire first half. The Panthers took a 25 – 20 lead into the locker room. They shot 47.6% compared to 25.8% for the Dragons. In the second half when the bench came on the floor, the defense got better and offense began to flow led by Mershon who scored 15 second half points, a career-high 18 for the game. Freshman Forward Tory Thieroff scored a career-high 8 points, all in the second half as well.
“Holly (Mershon) did a great job of understanding that she was the most experienced player on the floor and used that experience to run the offense and pick up the intensity on the defensive end,” said Dillon.
With just under five minutes to play Junior Forward Kamile Nacickaite and Sophomore Forward Taylor Wootton returned to the floor. Nacickaite hit a jumper, and after a Georgia State basket, Wootton made a short jumper followed by a 3 from Mershon giving Drexel a 51 – 42 lead with 3:09 remaining. Nacickaite drained a 3 to put Drexel ahead 54 – 44 at the 1:47 mark.
Nacickaite scored 12 points. Guard Kendra Long led Georgia State with 17 points and Forward Chan Harris added 16 points. Drexel made 7 of 17 three-pointers in the second half and went 9 – 27 for the game from distance. Georgia State made 6 of 19 threes, just 1 of 8 in the second half.
Drexel improves to 9 – 4 on the season and evens their CAA record at 1 – 1. The Dragons face Delaware at home on January 9.
Key Run of the Game
Drexel trailed 36 – 29 with 12:39 remaining in the game. Drexel Guard Ashley Davis made a jumper at the 12:18 mark to start a 15 – 2 run over the next four minutes that gave the Dragons a 44 – 38 lead on a layup by Mershon at the 8:35 mark. Georgia State would get no closer than 4 for the remainder of the game. Mershon scored 7 points in the run and Thieroff scored 5 points in that span.
Key Stat of the Game
Drexel made 14 of 28 shots in the second half and 7 of 17 from distance. Defensively, the Dragons held Georgia State to 25.9% shooting in the second half (7 – 27), and just 1 of 8 three-pont shots.
Key Players in the Game
For Drexel – Hollie Mershon who scored a career-high 18 points, 15 in the second half. Tory Thieroff also scored a career-high 8 points, all in the second half as well.
For Georgia State - Forward Chan Harris who scored 16 points and pulled down 8 rebounds, 5 on the offensive end. Guard Kendra Long scored 17 points making 5 of 13 three-point shots.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
Drexel led 46 – 42 with 4:06 left to play. The Dragons would score 8 of the next 10 points to lead 54 – 44 on a 3 by Nacickaite with 1:48 on the clock to put the game in the win column.
Thoughts and Musings
One must admire and respect the courage and the acumen of Coach Denise Dillon. She had the courage of her convictions to substitute 5 players in the game, some with limited playing experience. When Dillon saw that those players were doing what was asked of them, she kept them in the game giving them a chance to win the game for the team. Their coach would have let them finish the game had the players not gotten physically tired. Not many coaches would do what Dillon did, and her players rewarded her. Not with winning, by doing their job. The starters were somewhat distracted by the events of the day and week. The starters will be better for this experience. The bench will better. The program will be better. Thank Dillon and the coaching staff for that.
Drexel Coach Denise Dillon
Written By: Glenn Papazian