PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/15/12 – It was the home opener in a season of promise for the Drexel Dragons. The team is picked to finish first in the CAA. The Dragons dropped their season opener, now looked for the initial. The Dragons met the Redbirds of Illinois State, the alma mater of Philadelphia 76’ers coach Doug Collins who was in attendance. He and a sellout crowd of 2,532 at the DAC saw an entertaining game that went to overtime. Drexel had their chances, but did not capitalize. It resulted in an 86 – 84 win for Illinois State.
Sometimes it is an easy explanation on why a game is won or lost. This was the case. The Redbirds took advantage of their opportunities when it mattered. Drexel did not, and the Dragons are still looking for their first win of the season.
“They made big plays,” said Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint. “We haven’t been able to make plays when we need it.”
“The plays were there to be made. We did not. We had our chances and didn’t take advantage of it, and this is what happens.”
The Dragons led at halftime 43 – 37 behind 60.9% shooting. The second half was not as kind to Drexel making 12 of 33 (36.4%) field goal attempts. Yet Drexel took control of the game late in the half. The lead bounced back and forth with the teams trading a one to two point lead. Drexel trailed 62 – 61 at the 10:22 mark. The Dragons put on a spurt. A three-pointer by Senior guard Derrick Thomas and a jumper by Sophomore guard Damion Lee capped a 10 – 1 run for the host team and gave Drexel a 71 – 63 lead with 5:59 to play. This was the chance to put the game away, but the Redbirds answered with a 10 – 2 run of their own to tie the game at 73 on a basket by game-high scorer Jackie Carmichael with 1:58 remaining in regulation.
A Thomas layup with 35 seconds on the clock put the Dragons back in front. The Drexel defense forced a missed jumper by guard Tyler Brown. Drexel rebounded the miss and the clock moved to 11.3 seconds to play when Thomas was fouled. He went to the foul line and missed the front end of the one and one. After a timeout the Redbirds got the ball into Carmichael who was fouled by Junior forward Dartaye Ruffin with 2 seconds on the clock. Carmichael drained the two free throws to send the game into overtime. Had Thomas converted the free throws, the endgame would have a different strategy to it.
“We could have taken more time off the clock,” reasoned Massenat. “They were pressuring us the whole game, running and doubling, but I should have taken more time off the clock and put our team in a better position.”
Still, Drexel took the lead in the overtime period 79 – 76. Freshman forward Kazembe Abif scored, but missed the free throw on the potential three-point play with 2:48 to play. Guard Tyler Brown then hit a shot from beyond the arc, then, followed that with another basket. Guard Johnny Hill’s basket completed a 7 – 0 run to give Illinois State an 83 – 79 lead with 43.1 seconds left. A layup by Thomas was answered by two free throws by Carmichael at the 18.9 second mark. Drexel got the ball, but did not seem to have urgency on offense. The Dragons got a three-pointer by Senior guard Chris Fouch with 5.9 seconds, a gap of 13 seconds at a critical juncture. Leading by one at 85 – 84 Hill went to the foul line with 4.6 seconds on the clock making one. Drexel rebounded, hurried up court, but a three by Junior guard Frantz Massenat was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
For Illinois State Coach Dan Muller this win was a matter of perseverance.
“Our team is learning how good they can be,” said Muller. “I was not worried. If we stick with it, we would be fine. If you want to win a conference championship, you’ve got to stay with it. For our guys to do that against this team in this environment – I couldn’t be prouder of our guys.”
Carmichael led all scorers with 21 points. Brown scored 20. For Drexel Massenat had a team-high 18 points, 14 came at the foul line. Lee and Fouch added 16 points each. Ruffin had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Drexel had their chances, but did not convert. The loss hurt, but Flint feels that playing teams of this caliber will help as the season goes on.
“They are a good team,” said Flint. “Last year you said I didn’t play anybody. Now, I just played somebody. ”
Written By: Glenn Papazian