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Lavelle continues hot start as Drexel beats Lehigh

11/22/2022, 11:00pm EST
By Jerome Taylor

Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)

Replacing almost 60% of your scoring and rebounding in a year is a significant challenge for any program. And for Drexel’s women’s team, the partial solution has come from a first-year student.

Entering Tuesday’s contest, Kylie Lavelle’s 62 points were the most through three games for a Dragons’ freshman, and she’s been racking up the milestones early: 

Kylie Lavelle (above) hit the 20-point mark for the third time in four games to start her college career. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Two-time CAA Rookie of the Week in as many weeks, 31 points against City 6 rival La Salle, and her 20 points against Rider were the second most in a Drexel debut.

“It's a lot of fun,” Lavelle said about the start of her collegiate career.  “I couldn't do it without the upperclassmen. They talk me through everything that I need to know on the court… it's just a lot of fun to be out there and start playing.”

The Moosic, Pa. native has been a pivotal piece to Drexel’s offense that’s been impressive early in the season, nabbing a 103.5 offensive rating through four games, good for 32nd in the nation, per HerHoopsStats.

And the 6-foot-2 forward has seamlessly integrated into the Dragons’ offense thanks to her ability to get to open spots and knock down jumpers. 

“I think she’s just always in the right spot. You know, we talk about the way we play, and she does it naturally. It's something that's been so fun about coaching Kylie,” Drexel head coach Amy Mallon said.  “She's in a starting role for us, and she just knows where to go for those open spots when she needs to… she's confident when she has the ball in her hands to take those shots.”

On Tuesday, Lavelle was confident again, continuing the tremendous start to her college career, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting in an 84-61 rout over Lehigh at Daskalakis Athletic Center. 

And no matter what metrics you prefer to track offensive production, the Riverside High School product’s numbers pop off the page. If you like stats that require a little more arithmetic, she has the second-highest offensive rating on the team after Tuesday's win: 129.5 (HerHoopStats).

If you prefer more traditional basketball stats, she’s averaging 20.5 points per game on an uber-efficient 65.4 field goal percentage through four games.

The efficiency largely comes from her ability to score in the post. Specifically, on the right block, where she’s more than comfortable facing up or fading away for jumpers over defenders. 

“I feel like it's hard for the other team to guard if I’m to be able to score at all three levels,” Lavelle said. “And it makes it easier for me to find an open person even when I get the ball.”

Lavelle (above) has scored more points than any other Drexel player through her first four games. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Shouldering a heavy scoring load isn’t new for Lavelle. She averaged 24.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in her final season at Riverside. And in Tuesday’s matchup against Lehigh, she saw her first consistent dose of collegiate double teams, a strategy that her coach believes she will be comfortable with because of her experience in high school. 

“I mean, she came from a place where she was the one. She did everything on her team, and she was used to getting triple-teamed,” Mallon said. “I'm hoping that will somewhat come into play a little bit.”

“The one thing you see in Kylie, and I saw this all through the recruiting process with her, not a lot seemed to faze her. She always had the same demeanor… She’s a little deadly that way because you're not sure if she's fazed or not.”

Indeed it’s a small sample size, but Lavelle has proven to be a solid secondary scoring option to senior Keishana Washington - who picked up her second 30-point game of the season on Tuesday. 

Most, if not all, of the Dragons are stepping into new roles after Hannah Nihill and Tessa Brugler graduated. The duo led the Dragons to a 28-6 (16-2 CAA) record before losing in the conference championship.

And if the Dragons want to reach a similar position, returners like Washington and fifth-year player Maura Hendrixson will be guiding a group of players in new roles and playing a new level of basketball. And for Lavelle, that means helping her as she’s still getting comfortable on the court. 

“It's mostly defense. They tell me where to go because I'm still new with it all, and sometimes I'm not in the right spot, so they're always pointing me in the right direction,” Lavelle said.

“It's a two-way street, you’ve got to listen, but you also have to be able to communicate,” Mallon added “I think she definitely listens to her upperclassmen, and I think that's really gonna help her looking forward.”

The Dragons' win on Tuesday was important because it was their last game at the DAC until December 18. The road stretch of five straight starts against Buffalo on Sunday. 

“I’m just really pleased with this team win today… when we’re getting ready to hit the road for pretty much the next month,” Mallon said. “We’re really hoping that by the time mid-December comes we’re in a place where we feel really good about what we do and how we do it.”

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