RICHMOND, Va. – In recent years, Drexel hasn’t had a great deal of success in the CAA Tournament. It’s led to Bruiser Flint being asked about it, and he’s responded almost like it’s a running joke to keep it light, as he tends to do. But now he has a team that is on the verge of doing more than just putting those questions behind them, as the Dragons knocked off two-time defending champion Old Dominion on Sunday to reach the championship game.
Asked about it last year, Bruiser found a light way to deal with it. He’s a pro at that, which is part of what makes him a great interview, but it’s understandable that he’d rather not answer such questions because the premise is flawed no matter the coach. Many surely remember when it was said that one coach after another, whether it be Jim Calhoun or Roy Williams, couldn’t win “the big one”, as if they weren’t validated until they got a Final Four or national title.
“My sister and my mom are like, ‘Yo, buddy, should we bring extra clothes this year?’” Flint said at the time.
Hopefully anyone traveling with the Dragons this weekend, like the many students who were in the crowd to give them a lot of support, planned on staying to the end.
The Dragons are in the championship game for the second time since joining the CAA. From 2008-2010, they were done after one game, twice losing to the No. 11 seed as the No. 6 seed. Since losing to UNCW in the title game in 2003, the Dragons had won just two games in the tournament entering this year. One can figure there were some who still wanted to question whether this team could keep up their winning this weekend, coming in with 17 straight wins.
Old Dominion made a couple of charges in this game, but each time that happened Drexel responded well. They did what a team that is supposed to win is supposed to do. In the first half, after Old Dominion scored seven unanswered points to cut into a 15-3 lead, Drexel got the lead up around double digits for most of the remainder of the half. Early in the second, they increased the lead from the 27-17 edge they had at the half, but Old Dominion rallied to within 46-38 and seemed to have some of the crowd behind them.
After that is when Drexel won the game. Old Dominion turned up the pressure, but Drexel broke through several times for baskets, not letting Old Dominion get the turnovers they needed to have a chance to finish the rally.
“We know we wanted to attack their pressure,” said Flint. “We didn’t want to play not to lose the game, so when they did it, we attacked it.”
The Dragons will do the same on Monday night against a VCU team that likes to speed opponents up. While there is much speculation about whether or not they or VCU could get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Flint is naturally not taking anything for granted. He didn’t feel like winning on Sunday was a load off his team. Instead, he’s looking at what lies ahead, much like his players.
“We’re happy for the opportunity,” said Flint. We’ve had a good year, guys have worked hard, so we’re going to try to finish this off tomorrow. Right now, we’re just trying to win basketball games and cut down the nets.”
Drexel was picked to win the conference title in the preseason, just like Old Dominion the past two years when they did it. The Dragons are one win away from following the Monarchs and making any questions about an at-large bid or an inability to win in Richmond a thing of the past.