By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
While thousands ran the Philadelphia Marathon on a cold Sunday November morning, Drexel men’s coach Zach Spiker isn’t thinking about the long distance. Coming off a loss to Temple, his squad splitting their first four games in what’s supposed to be a promising season, Spiker
“Everyone wants to tell you hey, it’s a marathon, hang in there after a loss,” he said. “That’s BS. It’s not a marathon, it’s not. Life is not a marathon, it’s a series of sprints, and you better be ready to run.
“We got some anger built up, and frustration,” he added. “Opportunity for us to grow.”
Garfield Turner (above) had a career-best 13 points as Drexel beat Queens. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Consider Sunday’s 100-meter dash against Queens University (N.C.) a successful heat.
The Dragons overcame a slow start and another rough shooting performance from deep to move back over .500, beating the Royals 62-52 on Sunday afternoon.
Queens, in only its second year as a Division I program, led almost the entire first half, taking a 31-26 lead into the break on a Drexel squad that couldn’t hit a jumper. Dragons center Amari Williams, the team’s centerpiece and preseason CAA Player of the Year, spent all but five minutes on the bench with a pair of personal fouls and the Royals took advantage, getting to the hoop while also knocking down four first-half triples.
With Williams back on the floor to open the second half, Drexel looked like the squad picked to finish second in the CAA in the preseason. The Dragons scored the first eight points out of the locker rooms, a 13-2 run putting them up by six on a thunderous Williams transition dunk with 16:41 to play.
The advantage reached double digits with just under 10 minutes to play, sophomore point guard Justin Moore (12 points) with a bucket and a couple FTs before Lamar Oden Jr. (11 points) hit to make it a 13-point lead with 8:16 to play.
Queens never threatened from that point. Drexel’s defense limited their guests to 32.8% from the floor (19-of-58) and 6-of-20 (30.0%) from deep, just 25% from the floor in the second half overall. After losing the rebounding battle 22-15 in the first half, they dominated the glass 24-12 in the second.
“At the halftime, in the locker room, it was somebody rebound the basketball, somebody knock someone on their butt like they were being physical with us,” Spiker said. “You don’t (box) out, you don’t deserve to win. Rebounding is a simple effort and discipline thing to do.”
Williams was limited to just 11 minutes total, the 6-foot-10 forward departing in the second half with a bloody lip, unable to return. In his stead, junior forward Garfield Turner put up a career-best 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, with five rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
“That just gives you a glimpse of where our depth is, we had to use it today,” Spiker said. “You can’t talk about our team without Garfield Turner, and his grittiness and toughness.”
The Dragons were without the services of graduate wing guard Lucas Monroe for the second game. Spiker didn’t specify the nature of Monroe’s injury, but said he expected the 6-5 Abington grad to be back before too long.
Dragons’ shooting woes continue
Drexel entered Sunday one of the worst teams in Division I from beyond the arc. Through their first four games of the season, they were 20-of-74 (27%), 302nd amongst all Division I programs.
Luke House (above) has been Drexel's only reliable 3-point shooter thus far. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Things didn’t get any better against Queens. The Dragons missed all 10 triples they took in the first half, finishing 2-of-16 from deep. That dropped their season percentage from deep to 24.4%, which would put them below 325th in the country if the numbers hold.
Outside of senior wing Luke House (8-of-18, 44.4%), it’s been rough seas for the Drexel shooters. Moore is 3-of-17, Yame Butler 2-of-17, Oden Jr. 4-of-13, Mate Okros 1-of-6.
Spiker didn’t seem to be hitting the panic button just yet, at least not outwardly.
“I’d be more concerned if we weren’t defending,” Spiker said. “If we hold teams to 52 points, I don’t care what we shoot like. When we hit 3s, we’re going to be really difficult. We don’t hit 3s, we’re going to play winning basketball.
“So many times, we’ve been in here, we’ve seen it in our program, we’re defined by whether we make threes or not,” he added later. “Now, we’re not even shooting well, and we’re winning tough, gritty games.”
Drexel gets a week off before a trip down to former CAA foe Old Dominion (1-2) next Sunday.