PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – In the city known for its “Brotherly Love”, VCU and Drexel continued to perform like to brothers battling on the court, neither one wanting to give in.
For the fifth time in the past six meetings between the two programs, the margin of victory was six points or less. On Sunday evening in front of a packed house at the DAC and a television audience, the Dragons won the hard-fought battle, defeating the Black & Gold, 64-58.
“Give Drexel a lot of credit for making the big plays when they needed to,” Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “It is always battle when the two of us play and it comes down to who is going to make the plays when they need to be made. Tonight, it was Drexel.”
In a game that featured six ties and 13 lead changes, neither team would hold a cushion of more than seven all night long.
“I told our guys at halftime, especially our young guys, welcome to VCU-Drexel,” Drexel Head Coach Bruiser Flint said. “This is the type of games we play.”
“Ultimately it comes down to all the little stuff that makes the difference in games like this and we just didn’t get it done,” Burgess said. “The 50-50 balls, the offensive putbacks, all those type of plays need to be made, especially done the stretch and they were the ones who did that tonight, that’s why we’re in the position we are right now.”
The teams traded punches for the first eight minutes of the contest before back-to-back three-pointers from Burgess and junior Troy Daniels sparked an 8-0 VCU run, that gave the Rams a 20-15 advantage with 9:58 to play in the first half.
Eight straight points from Frantz Massenat put the Dragons back on top quickly and the two teams continue to trade blows as sophomore Rob Brandenberg drilled a trey late in the stanza to send the teams into the locker rooms squared up at 32-32.
VCU came flying out of the break on an 11-4 run, ignited by five points from Reddic and held the largest lead of the game at 43-36 with 15:29 remaining.
Drexel would chip away at the lead and eventually tie it up at 47 on a free-throw by Chris Fouch with 7:59 left to play.
The defenses would flex their muscles down the stretch with the teams combining for just one field-goal over a nearly four-minute stretch with the scored tied at 53-53 with 3:51 showing on the regulation clock.
Fouch and Derrick Thomas would then hit huge buckets for the Dragons that ultimately propelled them to the six-point victory with teams trading free-throws in the remaining seconds. It was only the sixth time that VCU has dropped back-to-back games under Coach Smart. The Rams are 19-6 in such contests since the start of 2009-10 campaign.
“We just have to get back to the basics of who we are,” Smart said. “We have to play our style of play, be aggressive and attack for 40 minutes. It’s a matter of focusing on the things that we can control and not getting caught up in the things we can’t. It’s all a learning process.”
The Rams will continue that learning process on Thursday night as they host in-state rival James Madison on Thursday at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Game time on ESPNU is set for 6 p.m. VCU will be looking to extend its CAA record of consecutive sellouts to 11.