Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Drexel Finishes Sweep Of Delaware And Becomes Dead Even With JMU Atop the CAA

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEWARK, Del. — Dead even and glory dead ahead.

That’s the story of the Drexel women’s basketball team whose 72-53 win here Thursday night over Delaware in the Bob Carpenter Center lifted the Dragons into a deadlock with idle James Madison atop the Colonial Athletic Association and completed a sweep of the Blue Hens on the season.

Having made the run since November when coach Denise Dillon had nine combined freshman and sophomores on her 15-player roster at the outset and a forecast of fourth place behind favorite JMU from the conference coaches, Drexel (23-6, 15-2) headed back home afterwards for the final game of the regular season when the Dragons host Charleston at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Of the remaining combinations for seeding in the CAA tournament, which begins next Wednesday and runs through Saturday for the first time ever at Drexel and in Philadelphia, the Dragons will have either a shared or outright regular season title if they win and James Madison, hosting William & Mary, wins or loses.

That likely would benefit Dillon’s group for the No. 1 seed to be determined by Sunday morning’s RPI ranking of which Drexel has a substantial lead on the Dukes within the list.

In the worst case scenario, Drexel already picked up one perk by claiming at least second place which means an automatic bid to the Women’s NIT, which the Dragons won several years ago, if they are not NCAA bound with the CAA tournament title.

While Charleston is at the bottom of the 10-team conference, the implications for Drexel by winning are naturally huge, which is how things have gone this season on the Dragons’ journey.

“This is a big rivalry game for us,” Dillon said of the one just completed. “And that doesn’t change.

“A lot was on the line tonight and our players showed up with a lot of grit, attention to detail and led by Kelsi Lidge from start to finish,” she referred to her senior who had a career-high 27 points playing in all but four minutes while also grabbing six rebounds, dealing four assists, getting one steal and committing no turnovers. “I was really impressed with her determination and grit to lead the way.

“We have a huge one next. We said it all year, every game was bigger than the last. That’s exactly how it came to play. And here we are at the end of the line, we’re in March, we have one remaining, and it’s bigger than the 29 that came before,” Dillon added.

“It’s hard to believe we’re going for the No. 1 seed in a tournament to be played in our gym. Back in November we joked about having an inexperienced team, the schedule we put together was truly challenging.

 “We took our lumps early and they responded each and every day just showing up and working together. We have good chemistry and just hope we have enough to get the job done on Saturday.”

With the CAA-opening win over Delaware 74-53 back home in December, it’s only the second time the Dragons have had multiple wins by ten or more points over the Blue Hens, the other being 2009 when they claimed both the CAA season and regular season titles.

Having at least one win over every other CAA school, it’s the first time Drexel has gained regular season “Ws” out of all nine and the first since beating everyone at least once in any conference since going 13-1 with a split with Lehigh in the old East Coast Conference in 1989-90 when Dillon was still a few seasons away from her freshman year at Villanova.

Besides Lidge’s performance against Delaware, Sara Woods had 12 points and eight rebounds while Drexel also got 10 points from Aubree Brown, the national player of the week from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Samone DeFreese was the only player for Delaware (17-11, 10-7) to score in double figures, collecting 17 points while Drexel shut down the Blue Hens’ double double queen, Nicole Enobasi, who had four points and six rebounds, was limited to 24 minutes, and ultimately fouled.

Delaware fell to a fourth-place tie with idle Northeastern (15-13, 10-7), but no matter what happens Saturday with the Blue Hens at Towson 2 p.m. while Northeastern hosts Hofstra, the two cannot be better than fourth or fifth, meaning they will play each other in a CAA quarterfinal game at 2:30 p.m. next Thursday at Drexel.

“Drexel’s a very disciplined team and you can tell they just know where everyone’s suppose to be,” said first-year Delaware coach Natasha Adair who was in the CAA in an earlier stint at Charleston prior to taking the Georgetown job which led to here last summer.

“You have to have a short memory this time of year as we’ll get on a bus and play at Towson on Saturday. And it’s not going to be easy at Towson. From top to bottom everyone’s fighting for something.”

Several places on the CAA tournament bracket are nearly or actually solidified in terms of the early matchups. Drexel and James Madison will be one or two while Elon, the defending CAA tourney champs from last season, will be third.

Already mentioned, Delaware and Northeastern will be either fourth or fifth while William & Mary will be sixth.

Mathematically, Hofstra, Towson, and UNCW could be tied for seventh, so on Saturday their play will settle outright or tiebreak seventh, eighth, and ninth, while Charleston, as mentioned, is already slotted tenth.

And that’s all there is on this one.