Drexel Dragons @ Louisville Cardinals
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Tuesday December 14, 2010
Time: 9:00 pm EST
“The future can be this year.” That was Rick Pitino’s quip when speaking after Louisville’s win on Saturday over previously unbeaten UNLV. Slick Rick has tempered Cardinal fans’ expectations since before the season tipped off, saying this would be a ‘bridge’ year for the program’s future; but it is now obvious Pitino is pleased with his first ever 8-0 start at Louisville. Maybe it is all a part of his motivational tactics, but whatever the case the Cardinals are playing really well together earlier than Louisville fans are accustomed to seeing.
Though on name alone you would think Tuesday night should be another cupcake win for the Cards, but that isn’t the case. Drexel is a solid team led by the three time CAA Coach of the Year and unstoppably named James “Bruiser” Flint. And like his name, Bruiser has assembled a Dragon squad that is hard-hitting defensively and pounds the glass relentlessly.
Though picked to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason polls, Drexel should contend for the Colonial Athletic Conference’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Dragons return four starters plus the CAA Rookie of the Year. Their lone loss this season has been a six point defeat at Rhode Island and since that loss have corrected most of the things Bruiser didn’t like.
Drexel’s 1-2 punch is a mix of sophomore sixth-man Chris Fouch, who leads the team in scoring at 22.4 a contest, and junior forward Samme Givens, the Dragons’ second leading scorer and leading rebounder averaging a double-double with 11.3 points and 11.4 boards a game. Despite his size (6′ 5″), Givens has led the CAA in offensive rebounding in each of his first two seasons and once again leads the league this year.
Fouch is the teams only three-point threat, chucking up 8.3 deep balls a game, and making 43 percent of those attempts. Only three other players on the team have even attempted a three point shot. Drexel is going to pound the ball inside when it’s not in Fouch’s hands and when it is they will body up and hit the boards hard as Fouch fires away.
Freshman forward Dartaye Ruffin is a prototypical Bruiser Flint recruit. He is a 6′ 8″, 240 pound beast on the block and had a double double in his first collegiate game against Penn. Helping Ruffin rough up the paint area is 6′ 9″, 270 pound monster Daryl McCoy who shoots 67 percent from the field. McCoy grabbed 18 boards on December 1 against St. Joseph’s, the most by a Dragon in one game since Malik Rose had 19 in 1996. Jennings and Buckles are going to have their hands full underneath.
Obviously defense and rebounding are Drexel’s strengths but they have two glaring weaknesses. The first is free throw shooting. Fouch shoots 82.9 percent from the charity stripe, the rest of the team: 54 percent. If Drexel’s defense is able to keep them in the game, a free throw contest is not something they would have a very good chance of winning.
The Dragons other weakness is turnovers, and against a Louisville team that forces nearly 20 turnovers a game if they don’t take care of the basketball this one could get ugly. As a team Drexel gives it away an average of 12.5 times a game, with both Givens and 6′ 4″ freshman starting point guard Frantz Massenat turning it over 2.1 times a contest.
The only senior that sees significant playing time is three year starter and team captain Gerald Colds. Colds contributes 8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game. He has yet to find his shooting stroke as he is shooting just 31.9 percent from the field on the season. Colds splits his time on the court at both his regular off guard spot and spelling Massenat at the point.
Drexel is going to play good defense, but against a deep, interchangeable Louisville squad I don’t see them maintaining the intensity needed for all 40 minutes to pull off the upset on the road.
Louisville 76, Drexel 62