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Drexel escapes UNCW with 85-76 victory

01/31/2015, 1:30am EST
By Aron Minkoff

Aron Minkoff (@AronMinkoff)

Momentum is a scary, contagious thing. When a young, well-coached team catches it, well, look-out.

Sitting at 4-14 less than two weeks ago, Drexel appeared to waiting for the future. With only one senior on the roster, the Dragons are a young, inexperienced team that looked lost as conference play began.

Saturday’s foe, the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks, entered the contest atop the CAA standings at 7-2.

That meant nothing to Drexel, who dethroned the CAA’s current leader for the second time this season, 85-76. With three wins in a row, the Dragons have caught the ever-dangerous momentum.

“We’re 7-14, so we’re taking any win that we can possibly get,” Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. “So momentum-builders, we just gotta continue to play…we got seven wins all season so, momentum, anything is momentum when you only got seven wins. We are playing better, guys are playing better, we just need to try to improve and work on certain things and hopefully we can sustain this thing a little bit.”

In this game, Drexel shot an astoundingly high 60.4 percent from the field.

“Every dog has its day,” Flint said. “We got a lot of baskets in transition though, against the pressure, they pressed us a little bit, we got up and scored some baskets in transition.”

Drexel was led, as usual, by junior guard Damion Lee, who recorded 32 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 2-for-4 from 3-point range to go along with 13 rebounds. Freshman Sammy Mojica continued a stretch of games in which he has scored double digits. The 6-foot-3 Massachusetts product contributed a career-high 17 points.

“We’ll take points from anyone,” Lee said. “Whoever can contribute and just score when they get it we’re happy with that.”

The key to the game for the Dragons was the strong inside play by sophomore Rodney Williams. The big man, in just his second game back from injury, recorded 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench for Drexel. Williams looked more confident as the game went on playing solid defense all evening.

“We are not making as many mistakes as we made in the past,” Flint said. “Rod comes back, again, he takes some mistakes off the floor because he has a better idea of what he is doing out there, to be honest with you, than some of the other guys.”

UNCW was led by its three-guard backcourt comprised of senior Addison Spruill, redshirt junior Craig Ponderand freshman Jordon Talley. The trio recorded 19, 22 and 16 points respectively.

The Seahawks were unable to get much else going after their trio of guards. The rest of the team contributed for just 19 points.

After a 19-6 Drexel run, the Dragons went on top by as many as 19 with just 5:30 remaining in the game. The Seahawks looked defeated but showed a calming sense of resiliency by storming back with a 15-2 run of their own to make it a 76-70 game with two minutes remaining.

“We made mistakes, so we stop them and we stop making them and then we start scoring the ball,” Flint said. “We got some easy baskets again off of their press, Dam made some big shots to sort-of get the lead back up. We came up with some rebounds and some stops so now we got the lead back up again. The end of the first half we did that, we turned some turnovers into baskets and got the lead back up.”

In what was certainly a game of runs, Drexel battled with UNCW throughout the first half, trailing by as many as five, ending it with an 18-4 run to take a 43-35 lead into the half. Just as the Dragons finished out the first half with hot shooting they brought that same focus into the second half and proved to be just too much for UNCW.

Drexel (7-14, 5-5 CAA) will travel to play Elon on February 5. The two teams met in the conference opener at the Daskalakis Center on January 3. Drexel lost 77-67 in that match. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.

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