The first half of Saturday’s Drexel-La Salle game looked like deja vu from 2019. Visiting La Salle was running Drexel out of the Daskalakis Athletic Center and built its lead to 18 points.

But the veteran Drexel group didn’t roll over this time. The Dragons fought back to within one point. But that was close as they got.

In the end, La Salle used two freshmen to put the game away. Jhamir Brickus and Anwar Gill made clutch baskets, and the Explorers’ defense shut down the Dragons for a 58-48 victory.

“I just thought our defense was unbelievable,” La Salle head coach Ashley Howard said. “We always talk about setting the tone defensively, and our guys did that.”

Each time Drexel (3-2) closed in, La Salle (2-3) had an answer. A rebound and putback by Tim Perry Jr. brought the Dragons to within one point midway through the second half. Drexel had three chances to take the lead, but those possessions ended with two turnovers and a missed three. Brickus followed that stretch with back-to-back threes.

The Dragons had one more run left when Camren Wynter drove to the basket and made a tough layup with 5 minutes, 26 seconds remaining to make it a 50-47 game. But, just like earlier, Drexel’s offense went cold and didn’t make another field goal.

“Compared to our other four games, I didn’t think our [quality of shots] were as good,” Drexel coach Zach Spiker said. “I felt like we were on 47 to 50 forever.”

A big part of La Salle’s defense was limiting the top scorer on Drexel’s offensive attack. Wynter led the Dragons with 15 points but finished 5-for-15 from the field. Drexel shot 33% as a team, and Zach Walton, with 10 points, was the lone other Dragon to reach double figures.

“We just wanted to wear him down,” Howard said. “Cam Wynter is an outstanding guard, and as a Drexel Dragon I watch him. I’m proud of him. We have a great deal of respect for Cam.”

Turnovers, they had 17, remain an issue for the Explorers, but it was still a strong shooting game. Their 46.2% field goal percentage was the highest this season.

Gill led the Explorers with 15 points and added eight rebounds. David Beatty had 10 points, Brickus eight, and Jack Clark scored seven points.

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“[Gill] did today what we always had confidence he could do,” Howard said. “We’re excited about what he’s bringing to the table for us.”

Getting bench production remains one of Drexel’s biggest problems. La Salle had a 25-3 advantage in bench scoring. Coletrane Washington would be an additional shooter off the bench, but he is still sidelined with no update on his status.

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Drexel returns to action Thursday at home against City 6 foe St. Joseph’s. La Salle hosts it Atlantic 10 opener on Wednesday against UMass.