Dartaye Ruffin Drexel vs. Cleveland State

Saturday Preview: Drexel eyes stronger defense


What: Drexel Dragons (5-2) versus Tennessee State Tigers (0-9)

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Where: Daskalakis Athletic Center

TV/Radio: drexeldragons.com/drexeldragons.com

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By KEVIN ROSSI

Philahoops Staff

@kevin_rossi

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There was no sugar-coating from Bruiser Flint on Wednesday when asked about his team’s defensive effort in an 85-82 triple overtime win against Cleveland State.

“The defense was awful,” Flint said so bluntly near the end of the press conference that it almost sounded like he was joking. “It was. It was awful, especially in the second half.”

He has a point, specifically in the second half of games.

Over the last three games, Drexel has held a double-digit lead at some point in the first half. They held Arizona (Nov. 27) and Cleveland State (Dec. 4) to 20 first half points and Alabama (Nov. 29) to 21. That’s a tremendous mark especially when considering the level of competition those three teams bring to the table.

The second half, however, has been a bit of a different story. To use the phrase “a tale of two halves” would be cliché but also correct. In those same three games, the Dragons are allowing 41.3 second-half points per game. Granted, they have been able to win two of the three, but it’s an alarming trend that needs to end if Drexel wants to see sustainable success.

Over the course of the season, the Dragons are +38 in the first half of games, heading into the locker room with a 30.9 to 25.4 lead on average. In the second half of games, Drexel is -21 and allowing an average of 38.8 points per game.

Struggles on the defensive end have led to Drexel allowing 70.4 points per game through the first seven games. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but Flint’s team has not allowed more than 65 points per game on average over the last seven years at least.

The Dragons have been able to overcome the defensive lapses thus far with a heavy dose of offense. They are averaging 74 points per game through the first seven games, an uncharacteristically high number for Drexel.

Flint’s squad has scored over 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 2006-07 when they reached the 80 point mark in three straight. Of course, the Dragons have had 30 extra minutes to do so playing three overtimes in both games, but it is 80-plus points nonetheless.

Some are critical of Flint’s offense saying it’s inefficient and the hand-offs are frustrating. The simple fact is, though, that the offense has already bailed the Dragons out of a few games this year, and we’re only seven games in.

No matter what, the recipe has worked so far, and the record speaks for itself. 5-2 and the two losses were on the road to top 25 teams in the country by a combined nine points. There’s certainly no arguing with that.

Drexel (5-2) looks to pick up another victory on Saturday at 4 p.m. when they take on Tennessee State (0-9) at the DAC.

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-Scouting Drexel: Last game: 85-82 (3OT) win vs. Cleveland State. … 1-0 at home. … Drexel has played back-to-back three overtime games. … The Dragons are turning the ball over only 10.3 times per game while forcing 13.0 per game on defense. … After his nine assists against Cleveland State, Frantz Massenat’s assist-to-turnover ratio is currently 2.6:1. … Drexel is +38 in scoring margin during the first half of games this season but -21 in the second half. … Chris Fouch continues to lead the Dragons in scoring with 19.1 points per game. … Dartaye Ruffin and Kazembe Abif are combining for 17.1 rebounds per game. … Drexel is averaging nearly a dozen offensive rebounds per game.

-Scouting Tennessee State: Last game: 65-66 loss at Alabama A&M. … 0-5 on the road. … Senior guard Patrick Miller leads the Tigers with 20.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. He’s one of only two Tennessee State players averaging double figures. … 6-foot-9 M.J. Rhett leads the Tigers’ interior presence averaging 10.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. … Opponents are shooting over 45 percent against the Tigers this season. … Tennessee State is getting outscored by over a dozen points per game this season. … The Tigers are getting outrebounded by almost six rebounds per game.

-Prediction: The Dragons will dominate the boards to move to 6-2 heading into an eight day break.

-Sound Off: What do you think is troubling the Dragons in the second half of games?

-Kevin Rossi covers Drexel for Philahoops. Reach him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @kevin_rossi. Leave your comments below.

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