Down by two with less than two minutes left, St. Joseph’s had one more chance against Drexel.
Ryan Daly pump-faked a corner three-pointer and drove into a collapsed defense. He then swung the ball to the opposite wing, where Jack Forrest stood wide open. The ball looked on line but bounced off the back of the rim.
Drexel took advantage of the missed opportunity by making free throws down the stretch. The Dragons defeated the Hawks, 81-77, at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. The win snapped a six-game losing streak against the Hawks (0-3).
“I thought we played well,” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker said. “I don’t think we played our best. We’re going to take away a lot of things we can work on if we want to continue our upward trajectory.”
Drexel (4-2) came out firing on all cylinders. Four Dragons made threes in the first half as they built a lead as large as 16 points. St. Joe’s managed to cut the deficit to seven at halftime.
Greg Foster Jr. missed his first game of the season, and the Hawks offense struggled early without its starting point guard. It was his replacement, though, who provided the spark the Hawks needed. Rahmir Moore went on a personal 7-0 run to tie the game midway through the second half. He finished with 12 points and was a team-high plus-13 in 31 minutes.
“From an analytics standpoint, he was our best player,” Hawks head coach Billy Lange said. “We want Rahmir to be aggressive.”
Daly led the Hawks with 30 points and Taylor Funk scored 14. The Hawks shot 43% from the field, including 4-of-24 (16.7%) from three.
Besides Foster, the Hawks were missing Cameron Brown and Myles Douglas. Neither of them are expected back before Christmas, which rules them out for upcoming games against top-25 opponents Villanova and Tennessee.
“I’m still proud of our guys to be down a few people we count on and to see us fight,” Lange said. “It shows me a good sign.”
Matey Juric’s stat sheet isn’t always reflective of his performance. Daly was a handful all game, but it was Juric’s on-ball defense that made it tough on the Hawks’ leading scorer. Down by three late in the second half, Daly took Juric off the dribble and pump-faked behind the three-point line. Juric jumped early, but he put his body in a position where Daly couldn’t lean into him and get three free throws.
“The numbers will never tell the full story on how [Matey Juric] impacts our program,” Spiker said.
James Butler and Camren Wynter had another dynamic duo-type of night. Wynter shot just 4-for-14, but his 14 points and seven assists were why he finished a team-high plus-eight. Butler produced his first double-double of the season a memorableone. He led Drexel with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
As good as Drexel’s offense was, it was the defense and free-throw shooting that finished the game. Drexel didn’t make a field goal in the last 5 minutes, 55 seconds. The defense picked up the slack and held St. Joe’s without a field goal for the last 7:59.
“[Defense] is something we worked a lot on in the offseason,” Butler said. “We made great strides, and we want to continue to build off it.”