LEWISTON, N.Y. - A dominant stretch of defense and return-to-form shooting from Chris Fouch carried Drexel to a 71-58 win over Niagara in a nonconference game last night.
The Dragons (4-4) held the Purple Eagles (3-5) without a field goal for 14 minutes, 15 seconds in the second half, turning an eight-point deficit into a 19-point lead in the process.
"That's our bread and butter. We play defense, we lock teams down and rebound," said Fouch, who scored a season-high 24 points after he had 23 Saturday in a win over Princeton. "Once we started doing that, we started feeling a lot more comfortable on offense and started making plays."
Fouch scored 19 of his points during the deciding 29-4 run. In his first three games back after offseason knee surgery, the junior guard shot 3-for-16 from three-point range. He was 1-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first half last night, then made five of eight in the second half.
"It started flowing for me in the second half," Fouch said. "I know that my teammates and coaches have got confidence in me, so I'm not going to shy away from taking the shots."
The nonconference win was Drexel's second in a row and first in five trips to the Niagara Falls area, dating back to 1981.
While Niagara shot 20.7 percent from the field in the second half after making 52.2 percent of its attempts in the first, Drexel shot an even 50 percent in both halves for its best performance of the season. Drexel went into the game shooting 38.3 percent.
Freshman forward Damion Lee made four of eight three-pointers and scored 19 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Working the middle of the floor against Niagara's zone, senior forward Samme Givens had 17 points and eight rebounds, and matched a career high with five assists.
"Samme, he hasn't played like this," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "I don't know if we'd be 4-4 if he was playing like this more often."
The Dragons won despite matching a season high with 18 turnovers against Niagara's fullcourt press.
Juan'ya Green led Niagara with 22 points. The Archbishop Carroll graduate, who is now averaging 19.9 points, second nationally among freshmen, scored eight points and assisted on two three-pointers during an 18-6 run that put Niagara up, 37-28, just before halftime.
"He knows what he's doing out there, and he's going to be a really, really good guard for Niagara," Flint said.
Lee, who made three three-pointers in the first 4 minutes to give Drexel an early 11-3 lead, hit his fourth of the game right before the break to make it 37-31. Lee went down for several minutes in the first half after getting the wind knocked out of him, but quickly returned to the game.
Scooter Gillette (Neumann-Goretti) scored inside on the first possession of the second half to put Niagara up, 39-31, before Drexel went on its long run. Flint said the Dragons made a subtle change to their defensive strategy at halftime that facilitated Niagara's offensive drought.
"We didn't step out on the ball screen as much," Flint said. "They were throwing the ball to their big guys under the basket. We told our guards, 'You have to play like there is not a screen there.' "