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Drexel handles Campbell as final CAA stretch nears

02/17/2024, 6:00pm EST
By Owen McCue

By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

UNIVERSITY CITY — As the games wind down on Drexel’s regular season, the Dragons aren’t yet peeking at what lies ahead.

Drexel (17-10, 10-4 CAA) matched the most overall and conference wins in coach Zach Spiker’s eight-year tenure with Saturday’s 81-66 win over Campbell at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

The Dragons have four games left to add onto those totals and fine tune for a run in the CAA Tournament, which begins March 8. The plan is to put together one championship-level outing at a time.

“We have one game on Thursday,” Dragons coach Zach Spiker said. “I’m not gonna change what we’ve been talking about. We’re trying to go 1-0.”

Graduate wing Luke House scored 18 points in Saturday's win over Campbell. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Graduate wing Luke House led Drexel with 18 points (six threes), sophomore guard Kobe Magee scored 15, sophomore guard Justin Moore scored 13 and graduate forward Mate Okros added 11 in Drexel’s win Saturday.

It looked liked one of the Dragons’ most dominant wins of the CAA season as they led by 27 with 8:39 to play before a sloppy closing stretch. Drexel finished with 14 turnovers in the game.

The victory gave Drexel back-to-back wins, stretching its home win streak to 11 after a three-game road-skid dropped it out of first place in the league. The Dragons are a half game back of the College of Charleston and UNC-Wilmington for first.

“For sure we’re back on track,” House said. “It’s tough to win on the road. Obviously, we’re capable of winning on the road but it felt good to come back home and win these two games, and I think we’re on the right track. We just gotta keep them going. We got a couple conference games left.”

The Dragons’ offense hummed Saturday afternoon. Nine different players scored, eight different players tallied assists and Drexel had 11 helpers on 14 of its made field goals on the way to a 38-26 halftime lead. The Dragons finished the game with 19 assists, shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 14-of-31 from deep (45.2 percent).

Drexel’s offense, which ranks third in CAA play at 75.1 ppg, was not the problem during the team’s rough patch but rather the other side of the floor, where the Dragons’ second ranked defense (67.0 ppg against) allowed 75-or-more points in three straight games before Saturday.

Spiker’s squad edged Hofstra 79-77 on Thursday despite allowing the Pride to shoot 52 percent from the floor and 45 percent from 3-point range. It was the third straight game the Dragons, who are holding opponents to 41.7 percent shooting in CAA play, allowed their foe to shoot better than 45 percent from the floor.

The Dragons looked much better against Campbell’s Princeton-style-influenced offense, holding the Camels to 39.4 percent shooting in the game. It’s the first time Drexel held an opponent under 40 percent shooting since a Jan. 27 win against North Carolin A&T. They accomplished the feat four times in their first four CAA games.

Drexel senior forward Amari Williams dunks Saturday against Campbell. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

“They play a good system,” House said. “They’ve got a lot of backdoor cuts and stuff. We had a good practice yesterday harping on that. Don’t get beat on the backdoor. I think we did have a good defensive performance. Obviously coach will watch the film and tell us how we did.”

Helped by four blocks by Amari Williams in the first 10 minutes in the It looked like one of the Dragons’ top defensive performances 18 minutes in, holding Campbell to 17 points before the Fighting Camels scored a quick nine points in the final two minutes of the half. The Dragons similarly gave up 11 points in the last 2:49 of the second half after another strong showing for most of the second half.

“I’m just stuck on some numbers right now,” Spiker said. “You talk about coming off a game and the final five minutes were not indicative about how we played. I thought we played pretty well, but that’s a thorn in my side right now. Fourteen turnovers is entirely too too many to win a championship.”

“I’m glad that we built a cushion and played well enough for a chunk of time, but we can be better,” he added.

Drexel will be back on the road for two in a row — at Hofstra on Thursday and at Delaware on Feb. 26 before finishing at home against Stony Brook (Feb. 29) and March 2. Hofstra and Delaware are both a game behind the Dragons at 9-5 in CAA play.

“We just gotta focus on the next one,” House said. “We have Hofstra on Thursday. That’s our next challenge, and take it game by game after that.”

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