PHILADELPHIA, Pa. 3/18/2012 – The Drexel Dragons knew it would not be easy. The games never are at this time of year. Despite leading by 18 points late in the first half, the Dragons survived a last second three-point attempt by Northern Iowa guard Johnny Moran and hold on for a 65 – 63 victory and a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals for a game against UMass. The harrowing ending did not come as a surprise to Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint.
“This team is a good team,” Flint said about UNI. “That’s why they are in the second round of the NIT. If you think we’re going to win this flat-out, you’re out of your mind.”
Drexel got out to a quick start in the game. Senior forward Samme Givins scored 16 of the first 21 points for the Dragons. Givens scored a game-high 28 points, 16 on the first half. Givins felt he started in a good offensive rhythm.
“When you get it going, it’s a big lift,” said Givins. “You get an extra bounce to you, and your teammates help you by getting you the ball, setting good screens for you, and letting you know to keep going, you’re on a roll, keep working because they can’t stop you. You feel real good out there.”
Once Givins established a low post presence, the Dragons were able to move the ball on the perimeter getting openings for Junior guard Chris Fouch who made 4 of 6 three-point shots getting 16 points on the day. Fouch though he benefitted from good offensive flow created by Givins especially in the first half.
“It helped a lot, they were double teaming on him,” said Fouch. “Every time I got it to him in the post, I cut through and I got the ball, made the right plays, and hit the open shot.”
Drexel took a 38 – 28 lead into halftime. However the UNI Panthers were not going to make it easy on the Dragons. UNI made 10 three-pointers in the game, 7 in the second half. UNI got the lead down to 2 with 6:21 to play on a tip in by forward Seth Tuttle. Trailing by 4 UNI missed two from beyond the arc, and a layup allowing the Dragons to keep their lead. Drexel stretched the lead to 60 – 55 on a jumper by Fouch with 2:19 on the clock. Trailing 61 – 57 Moran made a three to get UNI to within 1 at 61 – 60 at the 35 second mark. Givins and Lee added three free throws, but we those were answered by Panther forward Chris Rank three. With 5.2 seconds left Drexel guard Franz Massenat went to the line. He made the first, but missed the second. UNI rebounded and went down the floor getting the ball to Moran. He raised up for a shot, but was forced to double pump it. Still Moran got off a three-point attempt that his the back of the rim and bounced away. Drexel hung on for the win.
“If he makes that, you’re just unlucky,” Flint said about Moran’s three. “It was a contested shot, he pumped it to get it up.”
Moran scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in his final game. Tuttle scored 9 points and also took down 8 rebounds for UNI. Despite the loss Coach Ben Jacobson was pleased with the Philadelphia trip.
“It was a great trip,” Jacobson said. “We beat a great Saint Joseph’s team that never loses at home. That was a great win for us. We got lots of time together as a team, got another game against a great team in the second round. Except for the shot not going in , it was great.”
Massenat was the third Drexel player to score in double figures getting 11. Drexel was 23 – 44 from the floor (52.3%), and made 7 of 10 from distance. UNI was 22 – 48 (45.8%).
Drexel moves on and will play at home on Tuesday against UMass and Coach Derek Kellogg.
“Derek is like a son to me, coached him in college,” said Flint. “I’m not going to make a big deal out of it.”
A trip to New York City awaits the winner.
Written By: Glenn Papazian