NEWARK, DEL– Heading into their game against Delaware on Thursday night, the Drexel Dragons were 1-2 on their four-road-games-in-seven-day-road trip with a chance to split. A split would look good, but a 1-3 record would look even worse.
With the help of Dragons wing Melik Martin, the Dragons split, after taking down the Delaware Blue Hens by a final score of 76-68 at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware on Thursday night.
Martin accounted for a massive 21 points on an efficient 9-14 shooting, with a lot of those buckets coming in timely fashion, most importantly his dagger turnaround jumper to put the Dragons up nine with nine with 2:35 to go.
“I think he’s shown tremendous growth and ability to really evolve,” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker said. “Sometimes people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that’s a grad transfer student who has come into our program and it’s not right, wrong, or indifferent doing things a certain way, but I thought he’s bought into how we do things, he’s bought into that, I’m so happy for him.”
This was going to be a crucial road stretch for the Dragons, who after the win got to .500 in both the overall and conference record. They had to face the top team in the standings in UNC-Wilmington, who are 9-1 in conference, Towson who come in second place with a record of 8-2, Delaware who heading into Thursday’s contest was 6-3 in the conference and still sit in third place. They also had to take on James Madison on the road, who are no pushovers either.
To come away with a split with victories over Delaware and James Madison and losses to UNC-Wilmington and Towson by a combined 11 points, should encourage Drexel fans.
“We know we played some pretty good basketball in those stretches where we lost.” Spiker said.
For the game, Drexel made it a plan to attack inside, and they did with great success. Part of that was a solid game from Amari Williams, who posted his third double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s a good basketball player and I thought he did some good things,” Spiker said “We had a big, big win on the road tonight, it was a total team effort.”
Perhaps another part of it was Delaware being without their leading scorer and rebounder in Dylan Painter, who was wearing a boot on his foot.
With or without Painter, the plan remained the same.
“We would’ve done the exact same thing if Dylan Painter was playing,” Spiker said. “We would’ve gone at him, it’s about the ability of our guys, it would’ve been the same gameplan.”
The Dragons started out scorching hot, going 6-for-7 to really set a tone for the game, jumping out to a 7-0 run and a 14-8 lead.
But Delaware kept responding back and keeping their head above water, but the Dragons ultimately held them at bay, thanks to an off-night shooting the three for Delaware.
I’m more looking at the defensive numbers to hold that team they’re a good three-point shooting team, they went 5-for-21 tonight.” Spiker said.
Drexel also had contributions from Camryn Wynter who had 17 points, and Xavier Bell, who had 15 points including a layup that put the Dragons up eight late in the game which Spiker called “The biggest shot of the game.”
After a four-game road trip, the Dragons are back home for three straight against James Madison on Monday the 7th, Hofstra on Thursday the 10th, and Northeastern on Saturday the 12th.
The win against Delaware also marked the first time Drexel has beaten Delaware in Newark since January 17, 2015.
After playing in some good road environments, Spiker wants to create an environment of his own at the DAC.
“We need everybody in West Philly, student or no student, to help us pack the DAC on Monday night” Spiker said