Following an off-season marred by controversy and question marks, Drexel coach Bruiser Flint continually delivered the same message throughout the preseason.
"We're going to be better than people think," said Flint in mid-October, referring to a roster missing senior Jamie Harris and junior Kevin Phillip, who were dismissed from school following arrests stemming from an alleged on-campus armed burglary. "We're going to surprise some people."
Seven games into the season, Flint looks prophetic. Drexel won its fourth straight game yesterday with a stirring 71-67 overtime victory over visiting Rider (6-5) to improve to 6-1 on the young season.
Despite the early successes, Flint is looking for much more.
"I thought we were bad today," Flint said. "We lacked focus and missed way too many layups. We had 52 rebounds and should have had 10 more."
The Dragons, who boast the best record in the Colonial Athletic Association, can thank Chris Fouch for keeping the early season momentum on track. With the Dragons trailing, 67-66, with 28 seconds remaining in overtime, the sophomore sharpshooter connected on a dagger from the wing of the Daskalakis Center to seal the win.
"I came off a screen and I was open," said Fouch, who scored a game-high 27 points and is now averaging 22.4 points per game. "I knew it was going in as soon as it left my hand."
After a frantic final possession, Sammie Givens pulled down his 14th rebound of the game to set up a pair of final free throws by Fouch.
Givens added 18 points, marking his fourth double-double of the season.
Drexel will take its four-game winning streak to No. 24 Louisville on Tuesday for a litmus test at the sparkling new KFC Yum! Center.
"We played with no juice today," Flint said, "but it will be hard to play with no juice in front of 22,000 people. If you don't, you'll get put in the juicer."
Rider, a team stocked with talent from Philadelphia's Public and Catholic Leagues, starts a lineup featuring Mike Ringgold (Roman Catholic), Novar Gadson (John Bartram), Brandon Penn (Paul Robeson) and Danny Stewart (Neumann-Goretti). Penn led the Broncs with 18 points, while Ringgold added 15.
Rider's Justin Robinson hit a pull-up jumper with 22.9 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime knotted at 63. The Broncs missed eight of their last 10 free throws.
Despite falling behind 18-8, Drexel carried a 32-31 lead into halftime behind Fouch's 15 first-half points.