Saturday, April 20, 2024

Drexel deals Delaware second straight home loss, damaging CAA tournament seeding

SportsMen's BasketballDrexel deals Delaware second straight home loss, damaging CAA tournament seeding

BY DANIEL STEENKAMER
Managing Sports Editor




Delaware delivered the opening salvo Monday night in front of 3,390 at the Bob Carpenter Center and a national television audience. 

Drexel University had the size, shot-making and hustle to respond accordingly, taking down the Blue Hens 70-60 to hinder their Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) tournament double-bye hopes. 

Delaware (17-12, 9-7 CAA) lost its second consecutive home game after first-place College of Charleston pulled away from the Hens in a 90-71 romp on Thursday. 

The hosts defended their basket at a better clip against Drexel (18-11, 11-5 CAA) but hit a wall on offense after racing out to leads of 18-8 and 25-16 over the Dragons in the first half.

“We didn’t do a great job at the end of the half against their zone,” Delaware head coach Martin Ingelsby said. “It kinda paralyzed us. It allowed them to get confident.” 

Drexel had the confidence of a 33-27 halftime lead despite Delaware’s surge of game-opening layups by senior guard Niels Lane, fifth-year guard Christian Ray and graduate guard Gerald Drumgoole Jr. The trio’s combination for five layups in the game’s first six minutes wound up accounting for nearly a quarter of Delaware’s points in the paint in total (44).

Once Drexel’s zone defense walled off more of the Blue Hens’ drives to the cup, the Delaware well ran dry amidst a three-point shooting drought. Drexel limited the Hens to 2-of-15 from beyond the arc, which included Drumgoole silenced at 0-of-5.

“We gotta score the basketball,” Ingelsby said, well aware of the woeful offensive statistics. “We scored 60 points, we were 10-of-18 from the foul line, 2-of-15 from the three-point line. Against a team like that, you gotta be able to put some points up on the board, and we just haven’t had it lately.” 

Drexel clicked on its trips down the floor with sophomore guard Justin Moore registering 20 points on 8-of-15 from the field, plus four rebounds and four assists. Moore’s range outside and 6-foot-10-inch senior forward Amari Williams’ presence inside made the Dragons a handful.

“He’s a load,” Ingelsby said of Williams before complimenting Moore’s ability to control Drexel’s offense.

Delaware is most in control when it can push the ball on the run, Ray mentioned after the loss. The Blue Hens did not earn those chances down the stretch Monday night.

“I’ve said this all year long,” Ray said. “I think we’re best in transition. When we get defensive rebounds and we’re able to push, we’re able to get easy ones. When they start scoring, now it’s a half-court game, it makes it a little harder for us, especially with their size.”

Williams banked 14 points for Drexel on 6-of-13 from the floor. He was joined in double figures by graduate forward Lucas Monroe’s 13 points.

Ray’s 12 points were Delaware’s team high. His 12 rebounds, also the Hens’ best, earned the Gap, Pennsylvania native his seventh double-double this season.

“You’re taking the ball out of the hoop a lot in the second half,” Ingelsby said about Delaware laboring on offense after Drexel conversions. “They’re scoring the basketball, and we weren’t able to get any threes in transition that we’ve gotten before. [On] layups, we got to the foul line a little bit, but again, weren’t able to capitalize.”

Delaware’s free-throw shooting percentage is second-to-last in the CAA, ranking ahead of only Towson University. The Tigers, though, are one of five league teams situated in front of Delaware in the standings on Tuesday, imperiling the Blue Hens’ pursuit of a top-four conference bracket seed and corresponding double-bye.

Christian Ray (#5 above) soars for a rebound attempt against Charleston on Feb. 22. Jordan Rosales/THE REVIEW

Drexel increased the strain on Delaware heading into March by beating the home squad to the punch as the game progressed, Ray observed, calling “50/50 balls” key.

“They beat us to the ground a lot, they beat us in offensive rebounds a lot, especially in big moments, so we gotta do a better job of that.”

Ray handles a great deal of Delaware’s rebounding responsibility himself, leading the CAA at 9.2 boards per game.

“It was a great atmosphere in here tonight,” Ray said about a factor in Delaware’s hot start before Drexel “did start wearing us down a little bit.”

Ingelsby made clear that Delaware stalled offensively against the Dragon zone, but acknowledged readily that “that’s on me to help direct our group.”

In the end, Delaware lacked the free-throw makes to sustain a comeback against a Drexel team that finished shooting 50 percent from the field.

“Some guys gotta step up,” Ingelsby said, “and we gotta maybe reinvent ourselves offensively.”

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