Drexel was able to pull off the biggest comeback in NCAA Division I Men's Basketball history because they defended, made shots and forced turnovers in the second half versus Delaware.
Of course, that's the simple answer, but when something so incredible happens, something that puts Drexel on the national radar for at least a night, one needs to dig deeper than the numbers.
Those numbers are remarkable though. In the first half, where Delaware was up 53-19 at one point, the Blue Hens shot 61.8 percent from the field and made 10 three-pointers, many uncontested. In the second half, Drexel ramped up their defense and held them to 37.9% from the field, and allowed only one three-pointer.
In the first half Drexel forced just two turnovers and committed eight. In the second half, they pressed the hell out of Delaware and forced eight turnovers while committing just two.
After shooting just 34.3 percent from the filed in the first, the Dragons lit it up at a clip of 56.8 percent while drilling seven three's.
Those are the stats that show you how Drexel was able to win the ballgame, but they won't tell you the story.
I mentioned the press that Drexel applied during the second half. Their quick guards wreaked havoc, and Coach Zach Spiker did an excellent job substituting so he always had enough fresh legs on the floor. Delaware wasn't efficient or quick enough to create 2-on-1 opportunities that pressing often leads to.
That was just one of the things that stood out from the job Spiker and his staff did. Whatever was said in that locker room at halftime should be bottled up and sold because his team came out focused in the second half.
To comeback from 34 points down, the coach cannot make one misstep, and the players must execute with no margin for error.
That is what makes a comeback like this so remarkable, but when you look at the players who made it happen, it makes sense.
As a high school senior in Seattle, Tramaine Isabell put on a Washington State hat on signing day. When that didn't work out, it was off to Missouri and a situation in which his talent was undervalued and his coach was clueless. In his first season playing in games for the Dragons, Isabell is making the case for the CAA Player of the Year, and is obviously the best player in the conference. He's doing this on the other side of the country after facing immense adversity, but it's like he has said several times: "I'll never quit."
While Isabell was the star of the game, another transfer provided the toughness that is required to comeback. Troy Harper slapping the floor on defense got me right out of my seat. Harper talks about Philly toughness, and having competed in the Philadelphia Catholic League in high school, he certainly has that. After leaving his hometown to attend Campbell, Harper made the decision to come home, and the only word to use for his intensity in Philly.
Austin Williams has spend much of his time at Drexel in the shadows of stellar big men, but this year he has emerged from the shadows to lead the CAA in blocked shots. Although he was in foul trouble early, Stretch was able to come up with two key blocks and make some phenomenal interior plays on defense.
Alihan Demir, from Turkey by way of a Wyoming juco has been a pleasant surprise this year, and while he didn't have his best offensive game of the season, he enabled Spiker to play a speedy, small ball lineup to force turnovers because he did a great job rotating with Stretch and not allowing the offense to get behind him.
Kurk Lee has had a rocky year adapting to a brand new team around him, but he never hung his head and it was his defensive pressure that led to many of the key second half turnovers. The kid from Baltimore who's father was a standout at rival Towson has found a place in Philly, a city that knows big things come in small packages.
Miles Overton was a standout high school player in Philadelphia, but couldn't get his footing at Wake Forest. His time at Drexel has been marred by injuries, but he stepped up in a big way last night, knocking down two big three's.
Then there is Sammy Mojica. While I was at the first Drexel-Delaware game at Delaware, a woman sitting next to me asked if Mojica was a senior. I told her yes, to which she replied "thank goodness, I'm tired of watching him make three's against us." Mojica was the second leading scorer with 16 points, nine of which came on three's, but his veteran savvy was key on getting necessary stops. Mojica has gone through a lot in his time at Drexel, new coaches and new teammates, and although he doesn't say much, Sammy leads by example.
When you put all of the pieces together, transfers, adversity, under appreciation, injuries, changes, long roads, etc. you can see that if any team was going to come back in win after being down 34 points, it was these Dragons, a team full of players who have done nothing but fight and claw their whole careers.
I hope we have been standing too close to the picture to see the pieces fitting together, and I hope this win starts a run that leads to a CAA Championship.
That is what I hope for, but what I know for certain is this team will never quit.