Drexel's game with Niagara was on the basketball schedule long before Eagles-Vikings was postponed to last night. Talk about competing for attention . . .

With Drexel's students on holiday vacation, attendance was expected to be light. Perhaps only family and friends would attend.

Instead, a surprising gathering of 1,832 watched Drexel trounce Niagara, 84-39, in a nonconference game at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. The Dragons ran up their highest points total since a 97-55 rout of Towson last February.

The outcome basically was decided by midway through the first half when Drexel (9-2) built a 25-3 margin.

After scoring eight points early in the game, Samme Givens was whistled for his second personal foul with 12 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the half and Drexel leading, 15-3. Givens entered the game averaging 11.4 points and 11.4 rebounds.

With Givens on the bench, the Dragons still outscored Niagara, 29-12, the rest of the half. It was clear why Niagara (3-10) trailed, 44-15, at intermission: The Purple Eagles shot only 15.4 percent from the field (4-for-26). Drexel also held a dominating 29-14 rebounding advantage.

Drexel, which was outrebounding opponents by 12 before the game, crushed the Eagles on the boards, 49-27. During a long first-half stretch, Niagara missed 17 consecutive shots.

"That was an embarrassing performance by us," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, a former La Salle assistant. "[Drexel] obviously can make another team look bad [but] a lot of it was our fault."

Chris Fouch's 19 points paced four Drexel players in double figures. Sophomore center Daryl McCoy contributed 17, a career high, on 8-for-12 shooting. Givens had 14 and Gerald Colds added 12.

Point guard Frantz Massenat distributed 11 assists, tying the Drexel freshman record set by Michael Anderson against Delaware in 1985.

Niagara had given Drexel trouble in previous meetings. The Eagles had won the last two games.

The victory puts Drexel back on the winning track since a 93-65 loss at Syracuse snapped a six-game winning streak.

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said he stressed defense before the game.

"We haven't guarded the last two games," he said. Referring to the loss to Syracuse, he said, "My teams don't give up 90 points, I don't care how good the other team is."

Asked what his halftime theme was while holding such a huge advantage, Flint replied, "I told them 'You'd better have the same type of defensive intensity in the second half as you did in the first, or I'm going to start screaming and yelling.' "

The Dragons (1-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association) now move into their conference schedule. They were picked sixth in the CAA preseason poll.

"We've done some good things," Flint said. "We've got a good record, but this is where you make your bones, in conference play. Teams in the conference know you a little better."

McCoy's improved offense is one reason Drexel is tied with George Mason for the best overall records this season by CAA teams. He is averaging 7.0 points, plus 8.5 rebounds. As a freshman, the 6-9 McCoy averaged just 1.3 points and 4.1 boards in 28 starts.

"[Flint] told me I had to work on a lot of stuff," McCoy said. "He said I just can't be taking up space."

Said Flint: "I just want him to make layups, just finish around the basket."

Kashief Edwards, a junior forward from Imhotep Charter, scored eight points for Niagara. Scooter Gillette, a sophomore forward from Neumann-Goretti, had five points.

Niagara was missing its leading scorer, freshman guard Antoine Mason (16.7 points). The son of former NBA player Anthony Mason is sidelined with a foot injury and has played only three games this season.

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