WASHINGTON — Some players have it. It doesn’t have a precise definition, but it’s often associated with a player who shines the brightest in the biggest moments.
Drexel point guard Camren Wynter has it. James Butler and Zach Walton combined for three points in the first half. A few three-pointers and Wynter’s using his step-backs and a full arsenal of layups was Drexel’s offense.
Butler and Walton eventually got going, and Wynter didn’t let up. His biggest shot came with Drexel up by six points with 2 minutes, 35 seconds to play. The offense broke down, so the sophomore guard took a dribble at the top of the key and knocked down the dagger over an outstretched UNC-Wilmington defender to give Drexel a 66-55 win in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Wynter went to the bench in the first half, and the difference was noticeable. Drexel struggled. Players weren’t able to create open shots during a four-minute drought. Coach Zach Spiker inserted Wynter back into the game and Coletrane Washington knocked down back-to-back threes.
UNCW’s pep band made the 364-mile trip, but Drexel seemed to have a slight advantage in crowd size. The loudest moment came after the Seahawks were making a run midway through the second half and Washington buried his third three-pointer to increase the lead to 10.
Drexel started the second half on a 12-2 run and led the remainder of the game.
Keys to the game
Wynter has been the engine for Drexel’s offense all season. He scored 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He was a team-high plus-14. His defense on Shykeim Phillips was tenacious. Wynter had three steals and turned two of them into transition layups. He held Phillips to 4-for-14 shooting.
Drexel’s bench scored 28 points. Walton led the way, but Washington and T.J. Bickerstaff each had big baskets. Washington finished with nine points and Bickerstaff scored seven points and had two steals.
Marten Linssen was a problem inside. He scored 18 points for the Seahawks and limited Butler to seven points.
“Shouldn’t do it,” Zach Spiker said of taking Wynter out the game. “We just tried to steal him a few minutes. He played what, 38 [minutes]? That’s a little lower than the last couple of games.”
“Before the game, Coach challenged me to be better defensively on [Phillips], and I just accepted that challenge and took it a little personal,” Wynter said.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” Spiker said of Drexel’s next opponent, Hofstra. “They’re a good team and they were consistent and the most deserving team.”
Hofstra is coached by Philadelphia’s own, Joe Mihalich.
Wynter acknowledged that his familiarity with the arena contributed to his big day. Spiker said Wynter looked as if he was playing at home. Washington and Mate Okros have been two of the best shooters in the CAA, and they combined to go 6-for-8. The Dragons practiced in this arena earlier this season before a game against William and Mary.
Butler moved into third place in Drexel history in single-season rebounding. Malik Rose owns the top two spots. Butler passed Rose’s third-highest total and leaped over Bob Stephens’ mark during the game. He finished with 14 rebounds.
Drexel will play No. 1-seeded Hofstra Sunday at noon. The Dragons are 0-2 this season against the Pride.