PHILADELPHIA– It looked like it was going to be a repeat of the Army game for the La Salle Explorers: Go up big in the first half, falter in the second half and ultimately lose the game.
Part 1 and Part 2 happened, but Part 3 was put to rest down the stretch when the Explorers made key defensive stops when they needed to and beat Drexel by a final score of 58-48 on Saturday at the DAC.
“I just thought our defense was unbelievable,” La Salle head coach Ashley Howard said. “We came in here and set the tone defensively and our guys did that, we had a little lulls at certain times in the second half and then we got back to where we needed to and we were able to pull it out against a good Drexel team.”
It was quite the defensive battle between the Explorers and the Dragons, or it could’ve been an ugly offensive game from the Explorers and the Dragons.
How about both?
La Salle went 24-52 (46 percent) from the floor, and while they only took 10 three-pointers, they made half. Drexel on the other hand might want to burn the offensive tape.
Going 18-54 (33 percent) and an astounding 3-20 (15 percent) from deep certainly wasn’t a recipe for success.
“We weren’t able to execute offensively and (La Salle) had a better start and finish to the game.” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker said.
The Explorers did a great job neutralizing Drexel star guard Cam Wynter who went 5-15 from the field and 0-4 from three to finish with 15 points, five of which coming from the free throw line.
“We just wanted to wear him down,” Howard said. “Cam Wynter is an outstanding guard and as a Drexel Dragon, I watch, I’m proud of him, he handles himself well, he’s poised, he runs this team, it goes through him and we have a great deal of respect for Cam so we wanted to crowd him, we wanted to have multiple guys guard him, try to wear him down.”
“I think he’s going to be the target of a lot of defenses this year,” Spiker said. “No doubt he was the target of their defense, Cam has been very very good for us and very efficient, so we anticipated that, but some things you can’t always replicate and credit goes to them, they were able to make him earn those.”
“I know some of his looks were clean and they didn’t go, and we weren’t able to take advantages of the switches like we wanted to.” Spiker added.
As in the Army game, La Salle got out to a big lead to start, leading by as much as 18 when the score was 30-12 with 3:46 to go in the first half, but Dragons cut the lead down to nine at the half.
Then the Dragons cut the lead down to as much as one point with 12:41 remaining.
But La Salle battled back and thanks to freshmen Jhamir Brickus, and Anwar Gill, the Explorers were able to hold on.
“In the Army game, we weren’t able to pull it out,” Howard said. “But today we were able to withstand that run so we made a significant run to start the game, Drexel’s a good team, we knew they were going to make a run,”
“Brickus made some big shots, Anwar Gill made some big plays, and we were able to close it out on the defensive end late in the game.” Howard later added.
Gill led the team in scoring with 15 points to go along with eight rebounds, Senior guard David Beatty chipped in with 11 points and Sophomore wing Jack Clark finished with seven points and 13 rebounds. Brickus only scored seven points, but drained back-to-back threes to increase the La Salle lead from one to seven with 7:27 to go.
For Drexel, aside from Wynter’s 15, Zach Walton finished with 10 points and James Butler finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
Up next for La Salle is the opening of A-10 conference play with UMass coming to Tom Gola Arena on Wednesday, December 16 at 1:00. Drexel takes on another city rival in Saint Joseph’s on Thursday, December 17 at 6:00. That will be the Hawks first game since the program went on pause right after Thanksgiving weekend.
For La Salle, they have to figure out a way to play a “complete game” but according to Howard, he feels they did that, especially with the defensive result he saw from his guys.
“I think it’s something that we have to look at, in terms of when we talk about our identity,” Howard said. “It starts on the defensive end and we’re still trying to find ourselves but I was glad we were able to come out today and set the tone on the defensive end,”
“We talk about being able to sustain it for 40 minutes and we didn’t do that, but once we lost it, we were able to get it back towards the end of the game when we needed it most and we got key stops and rebounds.” Howard added.