A year ago, Drexel led at Rider by eight points with a little more than a minute remaining and lost by eight in overtime.
The setback could have left the Dragons in a funk for some time. Instead, they won 10 in a row.
Bruiser Flint hopes last night's 73-66 nonconference victory over visiting Rider at the Daskalakis Athletic Center provides similar momentum for the Dragons.
Carried by the long-range shooting of Tramayne Hawthorne and Gerald Colds, Drexel (7-5) overcame a 10-point deficit early in the second half to gain its second consecutive victory. Rider (8-5) dropped its first game in four outings.
Hawthorne led Drexel with 15 points, and Colds added 14. Hawthorne shot 5-for-12 on three-pointers, while Colds made four of eight. Drexel converted 33.3 percent of its three-pointers, compared with 21.4 for Rider.
With Rider leading by six points, Hawthorne sank back-to-back three-pointers. After the teams traded baskets, Harris Mansell put Rider ahead with trey.
Then Hawthorne, a 6-foot junior with excellent elevation, hit another three for a 58-58 tie. Colds, a masked-man freshman guard (he's protecting a broken nose), followed Hawthorne with consecutive threes and suddenly the Dragons were leading, 64-58. The closest Rider came the rest of the game was four points.
"My team had a lot of confidence in me," Hawthorne said. "I was making a few [threes] earlier in the year. I was struggling lately. They kept believing in me and telling me if I'm open, let it go."
Said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey: "I told our kids there's two kids that can shoot the three. [Drexel] had nine threes and those kids had all nine."
Hawthorne entered the game shooting 31.5 percent on long-distance shots. Last season, he shot 41.2 percent on threes.
As a sophomore, Hawthorne was Drexel's first guard off the bench. He averaged 7.3 points and played effectively on defense.
Hawthorne started the first 10 games this season. Then he injured his back in the loss to Temple. The last two games, he's reported for duty off the bench.
"It really [doesn't matter] to me if I'm a starter or off the bench,'' he said after raising his scoring average to 11.3 points for the season. "I just want to play my part to help my team win."
Drexel shot 46.7 percent from the arc in the second half, compared with only 16.7 in the first half. Flint said no major adjustments were made at halftime.
"The shots were almost the same ones," Flint said. "We just told them they had to be ready to knock them down.
"We told them to pick up the intensity. These guys [Rider] are too good on offense to play the way we were playing them, backing off them. We told them to be a little more physical."
According to Hawthorne and his coach, the way last year's game at Rider ended was no factor in the rematch.
"Last year was last year," Hawthorne said. "We have a totally different team from then. It was just another game for us to get under our belts."
Flint said he didn't remind the Dragons about the loss at Rider.
"Some of these guys were a big part of it, but I didn't talk to them about it," he said, laughing. "[Rider] beat us last year, but they're a better team this year."
With about 10 NBA scouts courtside to assess the pro potential of Rider's 6-11 Jason Thompson and Drexel's 6-9 Frank Elegar, the game was expected to be a duel of big men. Thompson (21 points, eight rebounds) and Elegar (nine points, 10 rebounds) played well, but Drexel's guards played important roles in the outcome.
Despite 0-for-5 shooting on threes, junior Scott Rodgers contributed 13 points for Drexel. Rodgers, a 44.4 percent free throw shooter through the first 11 games, made seven of 10 from the line. Senior Randy Oveneke, shooting 5-for-6 from the field, scored 10 points for the Dragons.
Drexel next plays Saint Joseph's on New Year's Eve at the Palestra, then moves into its Colonial Athletic Association schedule. *