Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Forget the first half of Drexel’s season, which saw them stumble out of the gate and all the way into Colonial Athletic Association play.
It’s all about the conference now, and Wednesday night the Dragons took a big first step, getting a road win that eluded them a year ago.
Drexel used a big second-half spurt to put away Georgia State in an unfriendly environment at the GSU Sports Arena, winning 77-60 in a win that hopefully puts the bitter feeling of that rough start in the rear view mirror.
After an R.J. Hunter bucket cut Drexel’s four-point halftime lead to just two to open the second half, the Dragons (5-8, 1-0 CAA) went on a 22-4 run and the home team would never threaten again.
Preseason CAA Player of the Year Frantz Massenat had his best scoring performance of the season with 25 points on 9-of-15 from the floor, making all six of his free-throws. He was joined in double figures by sophomore Damion Lee (15 points, four rebounds) and redshirt freshman Tavon Allen, who scored 13 points off the bench for his best performance since scoring as many against Xavier back on Nov. 23.
Sophomore Kazembe Abif (eight points, two rebounds) got his second consecutive start for the Dragons in place of Dartaye Ruffin. Ruffin, a junior forward, suffered a minor knee injury last week and missed the Saint Joseph’s loss on Monday but played 15 minutes off the bench at GSU, contributing four points and two rebounds.
Drexel’s other starting forward, Daryl McCoy, had 11 rebounds in the first half alone and finished with 14 (along with four points) as Drexel finished with a slight 29-27 advantage on the boards.
The Dragons outshot the Panthers, 53.1 percent (26-of-49) to 43.4 percent (23-of-53); they would also finish with more assists (13 to 8) and fewer turnovers (8 to 12).
Hunter would finish with a team-high 23 points for Georgia State (5-9, 0-1 CAA), who also got 10-or more from Cameron Solomon (12 points) and Devonta White (11).
It had been a tough start to the season for Drexel, who were picked atop the CAA’s preseason poll after winning the league’s regular-season title last year. They haven’t played like champions in many games this year, losing by 14 at home to Saint Joseph’s on Monday after previous losses to Fairfield, Rider, Tennessee State and Kent State, among others.
Exactly one year ago, Georgia St. beat Drexel on this same court, 58-44, to drop the Dragons to 0-2 in the conference. That would be the last game before Drexel’s 19-game winning streak that carried them to the league’s championship game in March.
Drexel opens their home conference slate on Saturday when they host Towson; that game will tip-off at the DAC at 4 p.m.