By AARON COLEMAN
Heading into a huge match-up against the Arizona Wildcats in the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off Tournament in Madison Square Garden, it was safe to say that the Drexel Dragons did not need much more incentive to be excited to play. The team made it known to reporters that they relished at the idea of playing in the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and they also knew that playing a national powerhouse like No. 4 Arizona was a huge resume booster come March.
So when the Dragons held a 19-point lead in the first half against a stunned Wildcats squad, the Dragons themselves acted like they had it planned all along. Long known as a school that big-time athletic directors avoided scheduling like the plague, Drexel lived up to that reputation Wednesday, holding Arizona to just 26 percent shooting from the field in the first half as they ended the half with a stunning 29-20 lead.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, Arizona inevitably woke up in the second half of play, increasing their shooting percentage to 46% with the help of three three-pointers and a monster performance from forward Kaleb Tarczewski (15 points and 10 boards), whose size advantage over Drexel’s front court completely changed the tone and complexion of the contest. By the time the final horn sounded, the Wildcats had come all the way back for a 66-62 victory despite a spirited effort by the underdog Dragons.
Unfortunately for Drexel, the story on this game was not what happened on the court. Injuries ravaged the Dragons Wednesday as starting forward Kaz Abif missed the game with a concussion and even worse, star guard Damion Lee left the game early with a knee injury that forced him to be helped off the court. Lee’s leg buckled following a tough drive to the basket and the third-year stud did not return to the contest. While Lee hasn’t had the type of consistent junior year that he would have liked, he is a preseason All CAA first team member and a threat on offense at all times. While Abif is back in uniform on Friday, there is no news on the severity of Damion Lee’s injury. Potentially losing one of your most dangerous scorers certainly cast a black eye on what was supposed to be a great day for the Drexel program.
College of Charleston
Record on the Week: 1-1 (Overall: 2-4)
Nov. 23 – Furman 55, CoC 89
Nov. 28 – SD State 72, CoC 52
Player of the Week: G Anthony Stitt (13.5 ppg, 2 rpg)
CoC bounced back Saturday with a dominating win over Furman as they shot 57 percent (team player of the week Anthony Stitt added 21 points and and two assists) from the field and held the Paladins to just 34 percent shooting from the field. This hot shooting did not translate to their Thanksgiving showdown with San Diego State however as they were held to just 33 percent shooting from the field and came away with a 20-point thumping in the Wooden Legacy Tournament.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 29 vs. Arizona State; Dec. 1 vs. TBA (Wooden Legacy Tournament)
Record on the Week: 1-1 (Overall: 3-3)
Nov. 22 – Delaware 80, Villanova 84
Nov. 25 – Delaware 80, Del. State 70
Player of the Week: G Davon Usher (25 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
The Blue Hens gave Villanova all they could handle and more Friday night but Delaware still came up just short of the victory due to poor free throw shooting (Delaware converted just 60 percent of their attempts while Nova made 77 percent), which spoiled a 27-point effort from guard Usher. Usher kept his scoring touch up in the squad’s following match-up with Del. State, dropping 23 points in a 10-point victory.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 30 vs. Robert Morris; Dec. 3 at Charleston Southern
Record on the Week: 0-1 (Overall: 3-2)
Nov. 27 – Arizona 66, Drexel 62
Player of the Week: G Chris Fouch (29 points and two assists)
The Dragons gave the Arizona Wildcats their best effort Wednesday night, amassing a 19-point lead in the first half before eventually falling to their superior foes in the second half. Sharpshooter Chris Fouch gave the Dragons 29 points but Drexel suffered a second half shooting dry spell (the team shot just 36 percent in the final half) while Arizona improved from 26 percent in the first half to 46% in the final half. It only got worse for the Dragons as third-year starting guard Damion Lee left the game in the second half with what looked like a severe leg injury. While the final prognosis is not out yet, the team will most likely not have Lee at 100 percent for the foreseeable future.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 29 vs. Alabama (Third Place Game in NIT Tip-Off Tourney); Dec. 4 vs. Cleveland State
Record on the Week: 1-1 (Overall: 2-4)
Nov. 23 – Hofstra 81, Hartford 78
Nov. 24 – Belmont 85, Hofstra 75
Player of the Week: G Zeke Upshaw (18.5 ppg, 5 rpg)
The Pride pulled out a tough one against Hartford thanks to a 27-point effort from guard Dion Nesmith and 22 points off of the bench. Despite having four players in double figures against Belmont (including a 25-point effort from Upshaw), Hofstra was defeated thanks to big efforts from Belmont’s J.J. Mann (22 points) and Craig Bradshaw (24 points).
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 30 vs. Manhattan; Dec. 4 vs. Sacred Heart
Record on the Week: 0-2 (Overall: 2-5)
Nov. 23 – James Madison 49, Valparaiso 81
Nov. 25 – James Madison 57, Winthrop 69
Player of the Week: F Taylor Bessick (11 ppg, 8 rpg)
The Dukes’ struggles continued this week, starting with a 32-point thrashing at the hands of Valparaiso on the road. The Dukes could not get anything going offensively as they shot just 38 percent from the field and a putrid 14 percent from deep. The Dukes had a nice defensive effort against Winthrop as they hold them to just 39% shooting but JMU’s shooting continued to go cold as they managed just 33 percent shooting themselves.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 30 at Richmond
Record on the Week: 0-2 (Overall: 2-4)
Nov. 22 – Charlotte 86, Northeastern 77
Nov. 24 – Florida State 62, Northeastern 60
Player of the Week: F Scott Eatherton (21.5 ppg, 13 rpg)
The Huskies were not able to carry over the momentum from their thrilling upset of Georgetown this week as they ended up with a disappointing 0-2 mark in their final two games of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament. Northeastern wasted two double-doubles (from Eatherton and Reggie Spencer) against Charlotte before turning the ball over 18 times in their two-point tough loss to Florida State.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 29 at VCU; Dec. 4 vs. Harvard
Record on the Week: 1-1 (Overall: 4-2)
Nov. 22 – Towson 58, Kansas 88
Nov. 26 – UMBC 60, Towson 75
Player of the Week: F Jerrelle Benimon (20 ppg, 8 rpg)
The Tigers traveled to Lawrence, KS to face the Jayhawks Friday night and were thoroughly waxed by 30 points despite a 21-point effort from Benimon. Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins paced the Jayhawks with 16 points as he led his team to 60 percent shooting from the field. Towson got back on track against UMBC fortunately as they shot 50 percent from the field and held their opposition to a woeful 28 percent.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 29 vs. The Citadel; Nov. 30 vs. Abilene Christian (Battle 4 Atlantis)
Record of the Week: 1-1 (Overall: 4-4)
Nov. 23 – UNC Wilmington 78, Marshall 96
Nov. 26 – Campbellsville 55, UNC Wilmington 72
Player of the Week: F Cedrick Williams (16.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
UNCW took a big time beat down at the hands of Marshall Saturday night, allowing a ridiculous 96 points to the Herd as well as 57 percent shooting from three. UNCW was able to get a bit of confidence back against Campbellsville thanks to big nights from Williams (15 points and six boards) and guard Ben Eblen (13 points and seven boards).
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 29 vs. Stephen F. Austin; Dec. 1 at East Carolina; Dec. 3 vs. Campbell
William & Mary
Record on the Week: 2-0 (Overall: 3-3)
Nov. 23 – W&M 72 Rutgers 62
Nov. 27 – VMI 67 W&M 97
Player of the Week: F Tim Rusthoven (18 ppg, 11 rpg)
A 28-point effort from star guard Marcus Thornton helped the Tribe grab an easy 10-point victory over the Scarlet Knights as W&M kicked the week off with a bang. It continued against VMI as the Tribe dominated their foes by 30 points thanks 26-point, 16-rebound night from Rusthoven and a 22-point night off of the bench from Omar Prewitt.
Upcoming Schedule: Nov. 30 at Howard; Dec. 4 vs. Richmond
Philahoops CAA Player of the Week: Northeastern F Scott Eatherton (21.5 ppg, 13 rpg)
Philahoops CAA Team of the Week: William & Mary (2-0)
After a tough start to the season, the Tribe has really bounced back behind solid efforts from G Marcus Thornton and F Tim Rusthoven. With two big wins over Rutgers and VMI, William & Mary look to keep up heading into the new year.
-Aaron Coleman covers Drexel for Philahoops. Reach him at [email protected], @shutupcole on Twitter, or leave a comment below.