St. Joseph's center C.J. Aiken had a perfect day with his shooting, but all anyone could talk about was his defense.
Aiken scored 19 points, hitting all six field goals, including two threes, and all five free throws as St. Joseph's beat host Drexel, 63-49 in a New Year's Eve matchup at the sold-out Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Others were more impressed with Aiken at the other end as he blocked a season-high six shots in helping the Hawks improve to 7-4.
"He had two big blocks that turned into field goals," said Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, a former St. Joseph's star. "That more so than his offense hurt us."
Even Aiken, a man of few words who averages 3.1 blocks per game, was talking more about his defense - specifically the blocked shots.
"That is what I try to do," he said. "Coach talked to me about blocking shots more, and I am trying to do it."
He said it felt good not to miss his shots, especially from three-point range. The 6-foot-9 junior entered the game having hit 8 of 32 from beyond the arc. Aiken, however, is 4 for 4 from three-point range in the last two games.
"I was struggling earlier this season on threes and have been practicing more, and I think they are going to start to fall now," Aiken said.
Drexel (4-8) was held to its lowest point total of the year. The Dragons played without injured junior forward Dartaye Ruffin (knee sprain), who is averaging 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. Flint said he hopes Ruffin can return Saturday against Towson.
St. Joseph's returned 6-8 forward Halil Kanacevic, who served a team suspension the previous two games for unsportsmanlike conduct in the Hawks' Dec. 11 loss at Villanova. Kanacevic was rusty, hitting 1 of 8 shots from the field.
Drexel junior point guard Frantz Massenat picked up his third personal foul with 12 minutes, 29 seconds left in the first half and the Dragons leading by 9-8. He did not return until early in the second half.
"Playing without their best inside player, Ruffin, and without Massenat for most of the first half, no disrespect to the other guys, but we should win the game," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said.
Drexel, which trailed by 14 early in the second half, pulled within 43-38 on Massenat's runner with 6:55 left.
St. Joseph's point guard Chris Wilson then scored on a three-pointer and an uncontested layup on a feed from Langston Galloway after a diving steal to increase the lead to 48-38 with 6:04 left.
Sophomore Damion Lee led Drexel with 21 points. The Hawks backcourt of Galloway (13 points) and Carl Jones (11) helped seal the deal in a game when defense ruled.