Zach Spiker (above) and Drexel got blasted by Northeastern on Thursday night. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Liam O'Brien (@lmob6)
The first half of the CAA slate has been full of statement wins for Drexel.
Just in the last week, the Dragons came from behind to knock off Elon before putting an 27-point shellacking on the best team in the conference, William & Mary.
What did these games have in common?
They both came in the friendly confines of the DAC.
The one message Drexel has failed to send to the rest of the CAA is that they can get it done away from Philadelphia.
The Dragons performance on Thursday night against Northeastern did nothing to solve this dilemma.
Riding a three-game winning streak, Zach Spiker’s group had a golden opportunity to carry their momentum into Boston and knock off the defending CAA champions, losers of three straight at the historic Matthews Arena.
When senior forward Sam Green kicked off the scoring with a three-pointer 41 seconds into the game, it seemed as if Drexel was on the right track to following up their shocker over the Tribe with a similarly dominant showing.
It only took a few minutes for that idea to be quickly washed away by a Huskies team motivated to shake off their home demons. Spruced by Jordan Roland’s unconscionable outside shooting, Northeastern enjoyed run of 18 straight points to bury the Dragons before the under-12 timeout got the chance to roll around.
“You can’t look big picture,” Spiker said. “You got to stay in that moment, keep chipping away and do the best that you can each possession. On the whole, when a team shoots 55% in a game, you’re going to be in trouble.”
The Huskies rolled into halftime leading by 32. Drexel failed to make up any ground in the second half, falling to 1-2 on the road with an 85-52 loss.
“I don’t [think our approach was any different],” Spiker said. “Any time you lose, you evaluate. Any time you win, you should evaluate why it happened and how it happened.”
This is not the first time Drexel (12-9, 5-3) has seen a winning streak vanish on the road via a double-digit loss. Two weeks ago, the Dragons took a two-game surge into Towson and left with their heads bowed after an 89-73 defeat.
If Drexel would like to secure favorable positioning in the conference tournament in Washington D.C. in March, proving themselves capable of winning in foreign territory is critical. The road does not get any easier for the Dragons, as they head to Long Island to take on Hofstra on Saturday before making the short trip to Delaware the following weekend.
“We have a game in less than 48 hours,” Spiker said. “We got to go through it, learn from it. We will meet again [as a team] tonight and talk some more.”
This crucial stretch is followed by a tough February schedule in which Drexel travels south to face a William & Mary team hungry for revenge and College of Charleston, the lone CAA team to come out of the DAC with a win this season.
The Dragons will have to bring a higher energy level if they wish to compete in those matchups. On Thursday night, the Huskies were the more aggressive bunch, forcing turnovers, getting out in transition, and getting beautiful looks from the perimeter and in the paint.
“I didn’t think we did a great job taking care of the basketball,” Spiker said. “When we take care of the basketball, we’re a much better team than this. We’ll take care of the basketball.”
Far too often, Drexel ball handlers were forced to pick up their dribble in compromising positions in the corner or just inside the three point line, turning it over 13 times in the deciding first half. Northeastern blocked off the paint defensively and their active hands resulted in myriad deflections.
While the Dragons backcourt was stressed, Roland was gliding around Dragons defenders, putting up 15 points in the first eight minutes of the game.
“We got to put it behind us,” Spiker said. “We got to do just that, we got to talk about it and get focused.”
Picked to finish eighth in the CAA, Drexel has proven the preseason chatter to be misguided.
This team has the pieces to finish in the top half of the league. In the midst of the wreckage, junior forward James Butler still managed 16 points and eight rebounds, falling just shy of notching his 14th double-double of the year.
If the Dragons can pull themselves off the mat on the road and restore their confidence, the next meeting they have with Northeastern away from the DAC could come deep in the CAA tournament.