When Damion Lee departed from Drexel University, the expectations for their season were not sky high. On the other hand, no one thought that the team would be winless before December. At 0-6, the 2015-16 looked lost again. But then a win against a solid La Salle team has slightly rejuvenated Drexel faithful. The team was in control and held a pretty good offensive La Salle team at bay. Although 1-6 is not good by any means, they are taking steps in the right direction. The next stop -- at 8-0 South Carolina.
Coming into the game, not many are expecting the Dragons to come away with a win against the team from Columbia. South Carolina is averaging 84 points per game and has yet to score below 76 points. The team is well-rounded, with five players averaging double digit points.
They are led by 6-foot-7 big man Mindaugas Kacinas, who is shooting 62% from the field in addition to averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds. Fellow Lithuanian Laimonas Chatkevicius plays next to Kacinas at 6-foot-11 and 251 pounds and he has complemented Kacinas with 13 points per game and a field goal percentage above 50%.
The two have played well and efficient together this season. Both have the ability to additionally play inside and out. If the Drexel frontcourt does not come ready to play, they could get eaten alive by the strong South Carolina big men.
Granted, South Carolina has yet to play any proven competition as they have have only competed with one Power Seven team. Their most notable wins were against Depaul and South Florida. But 8-0 is 8-0.
Although a win isn’t necessary, the Dragons are merely looking to build off their recent City 6 win. They just need to play hard and to begin making improvements. It can be expected that the game does not go to waste and that they can continue to fix their struggles before they head into conference play.
A week and a half ago against La Salle, senior guard Tavon Allen was a major reason that the Dragons found themselves coming away with their first win of the season. After failing to shoot above 40% from the field in the four games prior, Allen posted 25 points along with shooting 63% from the field and 3-3 from three point range. The Dragons desperately need Allen to be efficient offensively because their offense feeds off of his success.
This game will also tell us a lot of about the frontcourt of Drexel. Can the big men, specifically Rodney Williams and Kazembe Abif, step up to the challenge of stopping one of the SEC’s best forward tandems? USC has bullied teams in the paint, scoring at will, while rebounding teams by a significant margin (+9.1). Against Western Carolina, the team combined for 51 rebounds. Will the Drexel big men be up for the task? If they aren’t, Drexel will find themselves down from the get go.
Williams returns after a double-double against La Salle. Abif on the other hand has struggled on the offensive end, but has done his job with rebounding. In the past five games, he had three with more than 7 rebounds. Off the bench, Mohamed Bah and Tyshawn Myles will provide solid size, but much of the responsibility will be placed on Williams and Abif. Some solid play against a solid SEC team could prove to be a huge confidence booster.
Finally, the Dragons also need to continue playing well defensively, after they only gave up 53 points to La Salle. As a team who struggles to consistently score, playing stellar defense is a way to offset the lackluster offense. The senior Allen specifically stood out on December 5th, holding one of the nation’s best scorers, Jordan Price, to 5-14 from the field. They additionally held La Salle as a whole to 37% from the field, 25% from three, and forced them into 17 turnovers.
As Drexel takes on South Carolina Tuesday night, the team will look to continue making strides forward. A win would be nothing short of monumental, but at this point, the team is just looking to compete and continue making strides in the correct direction.
Photo: USA Today Images
-Drexel loses to Charleston in the quarterfinal of the CAA tournament