By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After going 16-13 during the regular season, the Drexel Dragons are getting ready for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. The #4 seed, the Dragons will open play on Saturday afternoon against #5 Northeastern.
The Dragons have battled all season long, finishing 8-8 in the CAA, despite significant injuries.
“I feel pretty good,” Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint tells KYW Newsradio. “I feel like we’ve handled our adversity pretty well. We could’ve handled it a little better, we had some games where I thought we let it get away from us a little bit. But with all the things that went on, losing two starters (Damion Lee and Kaz Abif) and having to play a lot of freshmen when you didn’t really think you were going to, I thought our guys handled it pretty well. I feel good about us going in (to the tournament). I wouldn’t say we are playing at the top level right now, but I think we’re playing good enough that (now that) we’re into the tournament, we could definitely win it.”
The Dragons will need to win three-straight games to earn the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. And a berth in the “big dance” is one of the few things missing from the resume of a very successful senior class for the Dragons.
“Every person that comes to college wants to play in the NCAA Tournament,” Drexel graduate student guard Chris Fouch, the 5th all-time leading scorer in Drexel history with 1,714 points, tells KYW Newsradio. “Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to do that my first five years here. I came back, that was one of my main goals, to win a CAA Championship and play in the NCAA Tournament.”
“It’s like, okay, let’s go out with a bang,” Drexel senior guard Frantz Massenat, the second Dragon ever to score more than 1,600 career points and dish out more than 500 assists, tells KYW Newsradio. “Let’s get into the tournament this time. That’s the only thing we’re missing, so let’s go out and get it.”
Massenat and Fouch are two of the six seniors/grad students on the Drexel roster. A third member of that group is forward Dartaye Ruffin, who is seventh in program history in rebounds.
Now Drexel and Northeastern played twice during the regular season, splitting two close match-ups. They actually wrapped up the regular season against each other, with Drexel letting one get away. Northeastern scored the final seven points of the game to steal a 54-52 decision on Saturday in Boston.
“As I said to the guys, we had a total meltdown on Saturday,” Flint says. “But we know we’re going to go against a tough team, they play really good defensively. Both teams are sort of grind-it-out teams, so the games are pretty close and they are low scoring. Hopefully, we can play a little better offensively. Hopefully, we can make big plays, which we didn’t do on Saturday, and we can advance into the semifinals.”
Massenat is looking forward to getting another shot at the Huskies.
“We definitely felt we threw the game away last time,” Massenat says. “Coming in now, it’s like, we didn’t beat them three times in a row. Now we really have to play, we have to finish out the whole game, we have to play the whole game. I think it’s going to be good for the team this weekend.”
Fouch has had quite the career for the Dragons as this is his 6th year in the program. He lost one full season and most of another to significant injuries. He says he has taken stock of the ride he has had at Drexel as it winds down.
“You think about that all the time,” Fouch says. “It’s been a crazy one, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. Made me a better person, made me a better player on the court. So just taking it for what it is right now and enjoying it while it’s lasting.”
Drexel hopes it lasts at least four more games.
Drexel and Northeastern will play at 2:30 pm on Saturday in Baltimore. The winner gets either #1 Delaware, #8 Hofstra or #9 UNCW in the semifinals on Sunday.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.