PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A sign the length of the student section, likely drawn out in a dorm hallway earlier in the day with a Sharpie, said it all on Wednesday night:
“NIT 2012: Drexel vs. The World.”
Indeed, it’s tough to blame the Dragons these days for feeling all alone. After a season to remember in the Colonial Athletic Association, Drexel was viewed as one of the bigger snubs from the NCAA tournament field on Sunday, and coach Bruiser Flint made it a point this week to say the team would bounce back and “try to go out and win the NIT.”
So far, so good.
Frantz Massenat had 18 points and 14 assists, and Chris Fouch scored 19, as Drexel (28-6) shook off its weekend disappointment and trounced Central Florida, 81-56, in the first round of the NIT.
“We still have a chance to prove to the world that we’re a good team,” Fouch said. “We still have a chance to win a national championship.”
Drexel, which set a school record for wins and had four players in double figures, scored the first nine points, ignited the crowd of 1,821, and never looked back.
“We played as a team, but we can still play better,” Massenat said. “We just have to be ready for the next one.”
“Not bad. We were OK,” he said. “It was about making the right play tonight. Guys found the open man.”
The Dragons, who led, 37-24, at the half, outrebounded Central Florida, 37-30, and will now prepare to host Northern Iowa in the second round. Some six miles away, the Panthers knocked off St. Joseph’s, 67-65, to set up the matchup.
“I don’t think our mindset was the greatest, to be honest with you,” Flint said. “We should have been up by even more.”
Keith Clanton led the Knights (22-11) with 12 points, and Marcus Jordan, the son of former NBA great, Michael Jordan, had seven points, four rebounds, and two assists. In the end, Central Florida, out of Conference USA, couldn’t handle Drexel’s up-tempo style, as the Dragons finished with 25 assists and four steals.
“They did a terrific job in transition,” Knights coach Donnie Jones said of the Dragons. “They hit some 3s at the end of the shot clock, so give them credit.
“They are a really good basketball team.”
Central Florida closed the season with back-to-back losses, and was just 5-5 in its final 10 games after opening 13-3.
“I’m proud of our season,” Jones said. “This program has done some good things, and we’re excited about where we’re headed.”
The Dragons have won 20 of their last 21 games.
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