Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
When a team travels to a city rival’s home court, they can usually expect a less-than-warm welcome. The exact opposite happened when Drexel visited the Palestra to take on the University of Pennsylvania. A dense Drexel student section, known as the DAC Pack, created a Dragon-friendly environment during the Battle of 33rd Street.
Just four blocks separate the campuses of Drexel and Pennsylvania, which makes the rivalry even more heated. A group of around 300 Drexel students made the trek from the Daskalakis Athletic Center (DAC) to the historic Palestra to see their Dragons play. They met up with about 500 more of their fellow students to form a sea of yellow shirts in the Palestra stands.
Drexel did not disappoint their following on Saturday afternoon, as they fought their way back to a 61-59 victory over city rival Penn.
Not many teams would be able to win a game in that they are missing their two leading scorers. This Drexel team did just that.
The Dragons (1-2) were without Damion Lee (12 ppg), who was out of the game with a neck injury. His status is currently day-to-day. With about fourteen minutes remaining in the game, Chris Fouch (20 ppg) converted on a layup, but came down awkwardly on his right leg, which forced him to the locker room for the remainder of the game.
With two starters out of the lineup, Drexel was forced to adjust their rotation accordingly. Nine different players saw the floor for the Dragons, but no bench player had as much of an impact as Tavon Allen.
Allen, a redshirt freshman, checked into the game for the first time as a Drexel Dragon with just over 17:30 remaining in the first half. Due to the foul troubles of Daryl McCoy and Fouch, Allen managed 10 minutes in the first half.
However, it was not until the Fouch injury that Allen left his mark on the game. He hit a pair of three-pointers that kept Drexel close to Penn mid-way through the second half. Allen continued to find his offensive touch as the game went on, as he displayed his all-around game to finish with 15 points for the Dragons.
“I felt a little pressure,” Allen said. “When I saw him (Fouch) go down I knew I needed to step up because Damion is out, and then he was out, so I knew I needed to step up.”
“He was a little nervous out there at the beginning but in the second half, he settled down,” Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. “He was a lifesaver today.”
Fran Dougherty led the Quakers (1-3) with 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting. He also added 10 rebounds to pace Penn.
The final minute of the highly-contested game was drama filled. After a Jamal Lewis layup made it a five-point game, Drexel could not get the ball in bounds, which led to two Miles Cartwright free throws. After Dougherty picked off a Derrick Thomas pass, Lewis hit another layup to cut the Drexel lead to one.
The Dragons got the ball to Frantz Massenat, who hit one of two free throws, giving Penn one final possession down two points. Cartwright lost control of the ball in the lane, leading to a jump ball that went Drexel’s way with 1.2 seconds remaining.
McCoy, who had fouled out in both of Drexel’s games so far, was once again limited by foul trouble in the first half. Both McCoy and Chris Fouch picked up two personal fouls early in the first half that landed them on the bench for extended periods of time. McCoy only played 10 minutes in the first half. While he only managed two points for the half, he did pull down seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes of play.
McCoy stayed out of foul trouble in the second half, which translated to him playing 16 minutes after the break. He managed just four points on the day, but collected 14 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
“I thought Daryl did a big job because I thought he did a great job on Fran Dougherty in the last ten minutes of the game,” Flint said. “I couldn’t find Daryl for two games. But today, he came in and did what Daryl McCoy does. He played defense and rebounded the ball, and that gave us a chance to win.”
Penn started the second half hot, outscoring Drexel 9-2 in the first four minutes to jump out to a 40-32 lead. The charge was led by Cartwright, who scored six of the nine Penn points during the run.
Penn kept the lead for much of the second half until a put-back by McCoy tied the score at 49 with just over eight minutes remaining. Allen gave Drexel the lead with a long two pointer, followed by a driving lay-up that pushed the score to 53-49 in favor of the Dragons.
Drexel shot 43.3 percent (13-for-30) from the field in the first half, with Dartaye Ruffin leading the team with 12 points at the break. For the most part, Ruffin was neutralized in the second half, finishing the game with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Massenat had a quiet day by his standards, only posting eight points. Jamal Lewis and Cam Crocker were solid defensively, not letting the pre-season CAA player of the year into the paint for much of the game.
“Frantz has gotta come ready to play,” Flint added. “He’s gotta play better. He has been struggling a little bit. Sometimes you guard yourself. He’s gotta play better. Bottom line. He is too good to put forth performances like that.”
The win is the fifth in a row for Drexel in the Battle of 33rd Street, though Penn still leads the all-time series 15-9.
Drexel will now head to California to play in the Anaheim Classic. The Dragons will take on St. Mary’s on November 22 at 4:30. The game will be aired on ESPN2.