TWO GAMES. Six overtimes.
If the current trend continues, all Drexel coach Bruiser Flint and his players are going to want for Christmas is a lot of bed rest, and maybe a session or two with a deep-tissue massage therapist.
The Dragons' 85-82, triple-overtime thriller over Cleveland State last night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, their first home game of the season, was the same sort of emotionally wrenching, physically exhausting battle of attrition that marked their previous contest, an 85-83, triple-overtime victory over a good Southeastern Conference team, Alabama, in the consolation game of the preseason NIT in Madison Square Garden.
True, Flint's guys had 5 days to recuperate from that one, but the heavy minutes logged by some key players - guards Chris Fouch, Tavon Allen and Frantz Massenat totaled 107 minutes, 101 and 94, respectively, in the back-to-back marathons - could have a debilitating effect on a rotation already thinned by the season-ending knee injury suffered by streak-shooting junior guard Damion Lee in a 66-62 loss against fourth-ranked Arizona on Nov. 27. And don't think Flint doesn't understand the ramifications of a team continually being asked to give its all, and then some more.
With any luck, the next game for Drexel (5-2), another home date against Tennessee State on Saturday afternoon, won't be another nail-biting long day at the office.
"Hopefully, Freddie [junior guard Freddie Wilson, a transfer from Seton Hall who becomes eligible for the Dec. 15 game at Davidson] can come in and help us with that," Flint said of his guard rotation as it stands now. "But, you know, we're down a man. That's the way it is.
"Damion's not coming back so you [the media] got to stop asking me questions about him. If we don't come with that kind of resolve, we're not going to be able to win. We won two games without him. Hopefully, we can win a lot more games without him."
Massenat ultimately was the hero, hauling down a long rebound and finding Allen for a breakaway dunk to make it 81-78 with 37.7 seconds remaining in the third overtime, then sinking a pair of free throws with 6.6 seconds left to again stretch the Drexel lead to three points, 85-82. A long three-point heave at the buzzer by Cleveland State's Jon Harris missed badly, and finally the Dragons were safe. Until, well, maybe the next time.
But Massenat, who finished with 21 points, nine assists, six rebounds, a steal and just two turnovers, failed on three previous chances to put away the Vikings (4-4). He missed buzzer-beaters with the score tied at the end of regulation and the first overtime, and hit just one of two free throws with 4.5 seconds left in the second OT that left the score knotted at 72-all.
"I did get tired at some point," Massenat said. "But when we have to play another [game], I'll be ready for it."
It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise - it certainly didn't to Flint - that Cleveland State hung tough, erasing a Drexel lead that grew to as many as 13 points late in the first half. Coach Gary Waters' Vikings had mighty Kentucky down by four points before losing, 68-61, on Nov. 25, a performance probably as impressive as the Dragons' four-point loss to Arizona and the three-OT squeaker over Alabama.
"We told our guys [Cleveland State] probably is the best-balanced team we've played to this point," Flint said. "They're better balanced than some ranked teams. They can put four guys out there that did what they did tonight, which was knock down three-point shots and spread you out."