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Title Tilt: Drexel vs. VCU Live Blog March 5, 2012

Posted by Sam Angell in Men's Basketball.
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A season that started at 6:00 am in a tiny gym at Rider University in New Jersey reaches a climax tonight in Richmond. The Drexel Dragons, the top seed in the CAA Tournament, will battle second-seeded VCU at the Richmond Coliseum for the CAA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Join us here, as we live blog highlights and inside looks live from Richmond, where a sizable and very loud contingent of Dragon fans, including a few hundred DAC Pack members, go up against the hometown Rams, less than a year removed from a Final Four.

6:17 pm: Arrived at seats just a few rows behind the Drexel bench. Women’s assistant coach James Clark made sure fan-favorite Coach Calvin Hicks was looking his best, telling the loudest Drexel fan to tuck in his shirt. He’ll be on ESPN tonight, so it’s good advice that Calvin is quick to follow.

6:24: Daryl McCoy dunked in warmups a few minutes ago and the backboard is still shaking. Safe to say the big man is up for tonight. The Coliseum basket supports however, might not be.

6:35: The Dragons take the court to the cheers of the DAC Pack. And the boos of 80% of the arena. Don’t look too fazed by it. Blurry, maybe…but not fazed.


6:55: Stands getting full as both teams are on the court now. Tip off just minutes away, Bruiser Flint is fashionably late to the court. Now he enters, with Matt Collier and Mike Connors, to the cheers of the DAC Pack. Meets VCU coach Shaka Smart at midcourt for a pregame handshake.

7:00: “And now, for the Number One-seeded Dragons of Drexel University”


7:09: First media timeout with 15:53 to go in the first, VCU leads 8-7. This crowd is, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly a VCU crowd, and Drexel isn’t taking them out of it early with two fast-break buckets for the Rams and a four-point play. Frantz Massenat with a couple very impressive drives to the hoop to key the Drexel offense.

7:16: Bizarre play earlier as VCU drove to the hoop. One ref called a block, the other a charge. Instead of choosing, both players were called for a foul and Drexel got the ball via the possession arrow. Never seen that before, anywhere. But maybe seeing something for the first time is a good sign for a Drexel team trying to be the first ever northern champion of the CAA.

7:21: Bruiser is not pleased with a couple calls, or lack thereof, in the last few possessions. He lets the officials hear it at the media timeout. VCU leads 12-9, 10:47 to play in the first half.

7:25: Samme Givens with a steal but he limps down to the other end. Looks ok on the next couple possessions but the Dragons have gone ice cold from the floor. Timeout Dragons, down 16-9 with 9:03 to play in the half.

7:57: Halftime, with the Dragons trailing 35-19. VCU’s pressure has stifled the Dragons’ offense, and the partisan crowd has been loud throughout. Bruiser has been trying to get in the guys’ heads that they are the better team and to play like it, but there’s no doubt the pressure has been a problem for the Dragons. Apologies for the lack of updates, as the Internet in the Coliseum has apparently been slowed by the VCU defense as well.


A New Perspective: How Golf Has Taught Samme Givens February 13, 2012

Posted by Sam Angell in Golf, Men's Basketball.

So much of what makes an athlete successful is the ability to react and adapt; to change what it is that they do well and keep performing at a high level as circumstances require. In some instances, however, adaptability and flexibility are vices. One of those is a golf swing, particularly a putting motion. Another is a free throw in basketball. That is how Drexel head golf coach Mike Dynda came to assist senior men’s basketball standout Samme Givens become an even more reliable presence in the Dragons lineup.

‘When I have a player who needs work on his putting, you might think I’d change the mechanics to improve those guys,” Dynda remarked. “Sometimes they may need a little tweak here or there, but the reality is that making a change in learned motion requires repetition. Lots and lots of repetition.”

As the Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year and a skilled putter in his own right, Dynda knows what he is talking about. So after observing the Dragons at the free throw line, he decided it was time to see if he could help.

“I knocked on [men’s basketball head coach Bruiser Flint’s] door last January and asked if I could offer any help. Bru looked at my kind of funny at first when I told him that I had been videotaping his team at the line and had some data that would improve his team’s percentage, especially number 45.”

Number 45 was Givens, then a junior shooting 48 percent from the charity stripe. Flint responded that Samme did not have his elbow in the right place, and needed to correct his form. Dynda conceded that any mechanical adjustments were better left to the coaching staff, but Flint pressed on. If that was the case, he wondered, what could Coach Dynda offer to help?

“When I reviewed the video, I noticed that Samme did not have the same process for each free throw,” Dynda recalled. “Much like putting in golf, the player controls the ball and, for the most part, the time. There aren’t four hands in your face and people jumping around you. Time slows down. In putting, the pre-swing routine is just as important, if not more important, than the swing itself. I felt that the same was true for free throws.”

With Flint’s blessing, Dynda spoke with Associate Coach Mike Connors, showing him the video he had talked about with Flint.

“Sometimes he had three dribbles, others four,” Connors noted. “Sometimes he exhaled before a shot, others during. Coach Dynda was right on with his assessment of Samme’s process.”

With that as a starting point, Coach Connors took the advice to Samme, and the duo began working on Givens’ routine. The idea was to be efficient and identical on each and every free throw attempt, not only during games but also throughout practice sessions before, during and after the season.

“When the player controls the ball…man, that leaves a lot of time for demons to sneak in,” Dynda exclaimed. Developing a regular routine would help keep Givens and the rest of the Dragons focused, excluding external distractions and internal doubts.

For Givens, the lessons have paid off. The third-leading scorer on the team, Givens is averaging 12.0 points per game to help lead the Dragons to a 19-5 overall record and a spot atop the Colonial Athletic Association rankings. He has gone to the line a lot this season – 98 times, more than all but one of his teammates – and has hit 73.5 percent of his free throws. A full 3.0 points a game come from Givens at the line, crucial points for the Dragons as they look to close out close games in the league.

Givens’ numbers are up dramatically from last year, when he was a 52.9 percent free throw shooter, averaging just 2.4 points per game from the line. In fact, Givens has never finished higher than 59.1 percent from the free throw line in his career, a number he reached as a freshman when he was just 39-of-66 from the line.

Givens is not the only Dragon who has benefited from Dynda’s observations. As a team, the Dragons are hitting 73.7 percent from the line. Over the previous five years, the Dragons’ highest final number was just 68.6 percent in 2006-07, a year which saw them go 23-9 and earn a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. Drexel has its sights a little higher this season, and they’ll have to finish strong down the stretch to reach those goals. By sticking with the routine that has gotten them this far, they appear to be in good shape to do just that.


Live Blogging the Tip Off: Drexel at Rider November 15, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Men's Basketball.
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3:29 am: Coming to you live from the Sunoco station at Broad and Catharine, where the journey to Rider begins. The Tip-Off Classic on ESPN is already three-and-a-half hours in. I’m with Drexel News Officer Britt Faulstick, Operations Assistant Zach Elsbecker, and Athletic Trainers Scott Ellis and Ryan Fries, and we have all decided to wake up before 3:00 am to drive to Lawrenceville, New Jersey for the Dragons’ season opener at Rider as part of this burgeoning annual ESPN event.

We’ll be updating throughout the morning on the road to Rider and from the arena. So keep your laptop refreshed next to the TV. Welcome back college basketball!

3:47 am: First stop: campus, where we pick up Assistant Director of Compliance Jesse Potter and Business Assistant Rachael Behrndt. Now back on Market Street, heading for 676 and up 95 to Jersey.

4:33 am: Arrived at Rider. Setting things up in the parking lot. There is a loud group of Rider students somewhere off in the distance, but we’ve got the breakfast set up all ready to go. Less than an hour and a half until tip!


5:01 am: Chef Britt cooking up some ham, egg and cheese biscuits. This is getting real.


5:20 am: Sports Information Graduate Assistant Chris Schieve has arrived, with his pickup truck and boom box in tow. If we weren’t awake already, we are now.


5:54 am: And here we are. Big crowd already on hand as the CS Northridge/Hawaii game wraps up on ESPN in the lobby. Several Dragons WBB players are on hand to support the men as the season tips off. Here we go!

6:04 am: The Dragons are introduced. Packed crowd here in the tiny Alumni Gym. Gonna be a fun atmosphere…this place makes the DAC look like MSG.


6:11 am: Just over three minutes in and Damion Lee has the Dragons’ first points of the season with a putback layup. 2-2 early on.

6:24 am: 11:07 to play in the first and the score is tied, 9-9. Call me crazy, but both teams look…a little tired. Shooting is a little cold and guys seem a half step slow. Still, there have been some good looks, including a block for Kazembe Abif on his first play with the Dragons. Don’t have numbers in front of me, but it feels like Drexel is doing a very good job on the offensive boards. Speaking of what it feels like…it is sweltering in here. A packed house will do that. The far sideline is completely full of Rider students, leaving half this side for Drexel and half for paying fans. Not sure if that’s the normal set up here, but it is a great noise factory right now.

6:41 am: That offensive board work has dried up and Drexel is facing a seven-point deficit after Rider goes on a 9-0 run. Bruiser Flint calls a timeout with his team in a bit of early foul trouble (Ruffin, McCoy and Abif each have two).

6:50 am: 1:15 to play in the half and Drexel has cut the lead to two, doing a good job in some chaotic situations where Rider knocked the ball out but couldn’t come up with the steal, and the Dragons found open men underneath. Rider calls a timeout now to resettle.

6:54 am: Drexel goes on a 10-3 run to close the half, and we are tied at 28. Nice resolve by the Dragons in the face of foul trouble and with a loud, hostile home crowd in their faces. Lee and Derrick Thomas did a great job during that run, especially defensively.

7:01 am: Givens has 8 points to lead the Dragons at the break. Lee has 7, along with 7 boards.

7:13 am: Drexel scores the first four points of the second half to take a four-point lead, it’s biggest of the game.

7:16 am: Givens is taking over now, scoring the last five points to make it 37-29 Dragons.

7:33 am: Franz Massenat just smoothly stepped into a three from the left wing and gave Drexel its largest lead of the night – err…morning – at nine. Then after a stop, Lee came down, put in a bucket and was fouled. He’ll have a free throw to make it a 12-point game after the timeout. 51-40 Dragons with 11:25 to go.

7:44 am: Drexel fans start the “where you going?” chant as a handful of Rider students head for the exits. Still a little early for that (both the taunting and the leaving), with Drexel up 60-44 and 7:48 to play.

7:51 am: Offensive rebounding keyed the Dragons’ big run, and now they can’t keep Rider from collecting their own offensive boards. 6:09 to play and they’ll have a free throw to cut the lead to 10. Givens just picked up his fourth foul.

7:58 am: A Franz leaner, a steal and a breakaway dunk for Lee brings the lead back up to 69-54 with 3:00 to play. That might have been the dagger as Rider calls timeout and the student section really starts to empty out. Eight am classes maybe?

8:08 am: Franz fouls out, but this is all but over as the Dragons lead by 18 with 44.7 seconds to go.

8:10 am: And it is all over from Rider. The Dragons win it, 80-62 and get their season off to a great start on national tv. Nice to have a win in your pocket at a time of day when you’d normally be just getting ready for work. The Dragons’ reward is a trip to the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

Thanks to everyone who checked in this morning! Until next time, Go Dragons!

Emergency Reading Material August 27, 2011

Posted by Sam Angell in Men's Basketball.
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Got your laptop battery charged? Looking for some reading material to keep you occupied as the minnows swim around your ankles? Excellent. This week, the Drexel men’s basketball program has gotten a little national publicity. If you somehow weren’t scanning the college basktball sites in mid-August (what else could possibly have gotten your attention in the news this week?!), you might have missed them. So here are a couple experts who think the Dragons could be in for a special season:


Andy Katz says “if there is  achance that a Northern team can finally break through this year, the one candidate is Drexel.” (ESPN.com)

Jeff Goodman writes that after Bruiser Flint opted to stay at Drexel, he now “has his best team (on paper) in his decade-long tenure at Drexel, a team that is likely to be favored to win the CAA this season.” (CBSSports.com)

Also, Jon Rothstein of MSG listed the Dragons as one of the “mid-major teams to watch,” along with Fairfield, Belmont and Iona on his Twitter feed, and expects them to be a favorite in the CAA along with George Mason. Meanwhile, Jay Bilas went on ESPN and said that he believed “this year’s George Mason in the CAA will be Drexel.”