Not all wins, or losses, are created equal.
If you’ve had the misfortune of sitting near me at a Drexel basketball game, you've probably heard me yell something to the effect of “what are we doing?”
This has become one of my go to phrases of frustration. I use it in many different scenarios, sometimes to express anger, sometimes to express confusion. Seven games into this season though, I haven’t been using it quite as much.
The Dragon are 3-4, but I’m really, really excited.
There was a point in the second half of the last evenings game versus NJIT where I said to myself this will be a 10-12 point loss where we’ll never get enough stops to cut into the lead. That happened plenty of times last season, and it happened against Bowling Green just a few days ago.
So, when NJIT took Drexel’s best shot in the first half before staging a run of their own, I didn’t see a path to Drexel winning the ball game.
NJIT is no slack. They are a really strong team with great athletes and a good in-game coach, Brian Kennedy.
Kennedy wasn’t going to let Trevor John get hot, and made it nearly impossible for him to get free for an open look. When Cam Wynter started penetrating the lane for an easy layup or an elbow-jumper, he collapsed the lane forcing Wynter to kick it out. With Wynter unable to score in the lane, the Dragons didn’t have a shot maker when they needed one most. But we’ll get there.
After giving up 45 points in the first half and going into the locker room down nine, the Dragons came out flat and couldn’t seem to get over that nine point hump.
In the first half, NJIT shot nearly 60% from the field, and it looked like they would continue at that clip. Then Drexel got a stop, and another, and another.
Then the DAC Pack happened.
The student turnout was great, with the student section nearly full. When it came to crunch time, most of the students were on their feet and joined in the chants. In college basketball, and especially at an intimate venue, the student section can make a massive difference.
Don’t get me wrong, Drexel turned up their defensive pressure and crashed the boards hard, out-rebounding the Highlanders by 17, but the DAC Pack made a huge difference.
NJIT had some misses where the ball was halfway down and then rimmed out. That happens when the release of the shot is off, maybe the player released too soon or held too long or wasn’t fully squared up, but whatever the reason, it’s more mental than physical and the student section should take great pride in effecting the game in that way.
When it came to the charity stripe, NJIT was only 57% when facing the Drexel Student Section. I certainly hope the DAC Pack keeps up their tireless efforts to get asses on bleachers, and if they do and the Drexel student section once again becomes one of the best in the country, this game will be looked at as a turning point.
The DAC Pack was great, but Drexel was still unable to pull out a victory. It felt like the score sat at 64-61 for an eternity. The Dragons kept getting stops, but didn’t have anyone to come through with a big bucket.
Kurk Lee’s injury loomed large. You may not think he is the best option to score in crunch time, but he would’ve been a calming presence when the Dragons needed one most, and I for one trust him with the game in the balance.
While close losses always sting, the Dragons never quit. That is one of the most impressive things about Zach Spiker, he will never let his team quit.
It’s certainly fair to be excited about the product on the court. Cam Wynter is going to have a monster career at Drexel, James Butler and Alihan Demir are proving to be a productive front court duo, and Trevor John has showed some flashes of a great shooter.
My excitement extends beyond the team, though. The atmosphere last night was a ton of fun and should be that way every game. As the team improves, which they will under Spiker, and the students become more engaged, Drexel basketball will become fun once again.
Last night was the first flash of light at the end of the tunnel for me, and my ever burning question of “what are we doing?” seems to have an answer for the first time in years.