NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Drexel has made a habit of letting second-half leads slip away in the early stages of this basketball season.
Nothing changed Tuesday night.
Tennessee State closed with a 21-9 run in the final 4:20 to beat the Dragons, 76-66.
"They played tougher than we did," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "They beat us on big plays around the basket. They did. It is what it is. That's the way we've been playing, and that's why we've been losing."
Damion Lee scored 18 points to lead Drexel (2-6), which dropped its second in a row and fourth in five games. Kellen Thornton's 20 points paced the Tigers (4-5).
Tennessee State shot 50 percent from the field compared to 38.8 percent for the Dragons, who were just 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) beyond the three-point line.
Drexel erased a 36-30 halftime deficit to lead for much of the second half, although its advantage was never more than three. Its last lead came at 57-55 on a layup by Frantz Massenat (15 points) with 4:49 to play.
The Dragons, who have lost four games they led at halftime, were unable to capitalize on a 40-30 rebounding edge, including a 19-8 advantage on the offensive boards.
"We've been losing the same way all season," Flint said. "We're eight games in now. You got to feel we've got to do some things differently. We just haven't been doing them."
The Tigers seized control once Thornton went to his pump fake on the block to tie it at 57. Drexel had a shot blocked on the other end and couldn't retreat on defense to stop a Jordan Cyphers layup that put the Tigers in front to stay.
Cyphers (15 points) missed a foul shot that would have completed a three-point play, but Michael Green grabbed a rare Tigers offensive rebound and cashed it in for a 61-57 lead. When a wide-open Cyphers hit a three-pointer from the right corner with 2:51 left to cap a 9-0 spurt, the Dragons were done.
"All of our games have been relatively close the last 5 or 6 minutes, and we just haven't been able to come up with stops," Lee said. "The scoring isn't . . . that's not one of our problems. It's digging down and getting a stop when we need it.
"I think it's mental lapses as a unit. As a unit, we start to take breaks. And as coach always says, we play not to lose. We play just to run time out and to win by as little as possible. That hasn't happened. And we give teams confidence throughout the game. I don't know what to tell you."
Daryl McCoy had 10 points and 13 rebounds for Drexel. Tennessee State's leading scorer, Robert Covington, hit his average of 17 points despite foul trouble.
"Drexel is a tough, hard-nosed defensive team and they're relentless on the boards," said Tigers coach Travis Williams. "But we played our brand of basketball. This is the first game we've shot 50 percent against a tough defensive team, and we only had 10 turnovers. They're a very aggressive driving team, so we tried to stay in front and make them make tough shots."
Lee's three-point shooting stoked a 14-5 Drexel run to open the second half. He hit twice from the arc to trim the six-point halftime deficit to 41-40, and Massenat's driving layup moments later put the Dragons in front with 14:56 to play.
Drexel's largest lead was at 22-16 with 8:55 left in the first half. Tennessee State answered with an 11-2 run over the next 4 minutes, capitalizing when the Dragons failed to get back in transition. After Lee tied it at 27, the Tigers switched to a zone defense and Drexel struggled to find the shots it wanted.