The Bradley Braves came into Philadelphia Saturday to conclude a two-game road trip. Having won its previous game at George Washington University, the Illinois-based team was looking to remain undefeated all-time against Drexel.
However, the Dragons would show the Braves why they were preseason favorites of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Samme Givens posted a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing ten rebounds, to lead Drexel to a 73-68 win. Bradley roared back from a 17-point deficit to tie the game at 65 with 2:31 left. From there, the Dragons (5-4, 0-1) closed the game on an 8-3 run to secure its third straight win. The win marks Drexel’s first over Bradley in three games.
Following the game, Bradley’s head coach credited Drexel’s early effectiveness to their physicality.
“It took us a while to figure out how to combat that (physicality),” Geno Ford admitted. “They were so physical, they took us out of all of our cutting plays (on offense).”
To combat Drexel’s physical presence inside early, the Braves’ defensive game plan revolved around playing mostly zone. The Dragons patiently moved the ball around the perimeter and connected on six three-pointers in the first half. By comparison, Drexel had connected on 46 treys in its previous eight games this season – an average of less than six per game.
The hot outside shooting allowed the Dragons to take a 31-24 lead, despite Bradley holding Givens scoreless on only two shots. The second half was a different story for the senior forward, as he scored all 17 of points in the final 20 minutes.
Givens established himself early in the second stanza, scoring baskets in the paint on consecutive possessions in the first 2:25 of the half. The Philadelphia native scored on six of his seven shot attempts in the second half, and also hit all five free throws.
A Bradley layup with 12:01 left in the second half cut Drexel’s lead to eleven points. From there the Dragons played perhaps their best two-plus minutes of offense of their season:
This 12-6 run extended Drexel’s lead to 58-41 with more than nine minutes left. From there, Bradley scored on eleven of its next 13 possessions to tie the score at 65 apiece with 2:31 left. Fouch scored a layup as the shot clock expired on the Dragons’ next possession, and Drexel hit six of its last eight free throws to seal the win.
After the game, Coach Bruiser Flint was asked how Drexel found its way late after exhausting such a large lead.
“Find our way? We almost found our way to a loss,” Flint said. “I tell the guys, they have to have a little ‘kill’ in them.”
But such out-of-conference battles will benefit this young Drexel team during CAA play. Although four starters from last year’s team returned, Drexel is getting significant contributions from younger players. Massenat, a sophomore, finished with 15 points and four assists; freshman Damion Lee scored eleven points and had two assists, rebounds and steals each.
Even though Givens is the only senior on the roster, Bradley’s coach was cognizant of their talent. “We’re playing a good team with a great coach,” Coach Ford said. “When you play a team as great as Drexel, you have to be good the whole game.”