THE DREXEL Dragons have done it again.
After claiming their first-ever SEC victory against Auburn last Saturday, the Drexel women knocked off another big-time SEC program, defeating the Florida Gators, 67-57, in the Women's National Invitational Tournament semifinals Wednesday night at a lively Daskalakis Athletic Center.
"We feel the CAA is owed a little bit more respect," said head coach Denise Dillon, who is in her 10th year with the program. "I think we have shown that the CAA is better than they may be given credit."
The Gators (22-15) scored the first bucket of the game and reached a 6-4 lead early in the first half, but never saw one again. The Dragons (27-10) were able to control the pace of the game early and glide to an easy victory. Drexel senior guard Hollie Mershon turned in a double-double performance, scoring 28 points to go with 10 assists.
"Once you set a tempo in games like this, it allows you to kind of dictate what's going on, and I think we set the tempo on the defensive end, if not allowing them to get some of the easy looks they typically get," Dillon said. "We talk about when all five of our players want the ball and are willing to shoot the ball, it's very difficult for any team to guard us.
"Thankfully, the shots were falling early."
The Dragons held a 34-28 halftime advantage, but were expecting a tough second half from the Gators.
"Coach said at halftime if you tell yourself you're tired, you're going to be tired," Mershon said. "So I just told myself keep going. I didn't want that to be the last 20 minutes of my collegiate career here."
Overall, the Dragons shot 40 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point territory. Senior forward Taylor Wootton contributed 16 points and four rebounds, while junior guard Fiona Flanagan added 11 points and five rebounds.
On the defensive end, the Dragons were able to slow down a fast-paced Gators offense, holding them to 11 percent shooting from three-point range in the the first half and 20 percent for the game.
Sydney Rice's double-double - 20 points and 10 rebounds - led the Gators, while junior guard Jaterra Bonds added 14 points and Jennifer George scored 10.
"They played a fantastic game," Florida head coach Amanda Butler said. "There's no question they controlled the pace from the beginning all the way to the end. We have to give them all the credit for the way they played."
Drexel will host Utah in the WNIT championship game Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Daskalakis Center. Utah needed overtime to beat Kansas State, 54-46, in Wednesday's other semifinal.