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Arizona Wildcats face Drexel in preseason NIT semifinal

Photo+courtesy+The+Triangle
Photo courtesy The Triangle

As the No. 4 Wildcats (5-0) play in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York City, sharp-shooting Drexel should be the only thing on their minds.

Looming on Friday is a potential championship game match-up with No. 6 ranked — and preseason NIT No. 2 seed — Duke for the top-seeded Wildcats, but the Dragons come first.

In the 2011-12 season, Drexel (3-1) won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title, but fell just short of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Dragons were one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams, making just under 40 percent of their long-range attempts.

However, despite returning its top three-point shooters, Drexel saw its three-point percentage drop to 33 percent last season, to go along with being with one of least efficient schools in the CAA conference.

Injuries were the leading cause of its troubles, and the poor outside shooting couldn’t cover that up.

Lucky for Dragons head coach James “Bruiser” Flint, his top three-point shooters from 2011-12 are still on the roster.

Point guard Frantz Massenat had 120 three-point attempts two seasons ago, converting an incredible 45 percent of those attempts. With key injuries last season, Massenat saw his percentage drop to 32 percent while shooting more long-distance attempts than the season prior.

Fellow guards Chris Fouch and junior Damion Lee are the other three-point threats on the Dragons’ roster.

Fouch missed nearly all of the 2012-13 season with a severe ankle injury. In 2011-12, Fouch made 36 percent of his 178 three point attempts.

Lee missed a couple games last season but has been a consistent 36 to 37 percent three-point shooter since arriving in Philadelphia.

All this being said, Drexel’s 70-59 upset win over Rutgers on Nov. 19 to reach the semifinals of the NIT wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the performance of sophomore sixth-man Tavon Allen. The non-starter scored 21 points against the Scarlet Knights, 16 of which came in the second half.

In the Dragons’ first-round game against Elon, Allen added 15 points, once again off the bench.
This wouldn’t be a Drexel or Bruiser Flint squad if it wasn’t tough and defensively minded. The Dragons will have some matchup issues for Arizona, most notably in the backcourt with their long size. But the Wildcats’ athleticism should combat Drexel’s size, especially in transition.

With the upset of No. 6 seed Elon in the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 18, Flint became the winningest coach in Drexel history, but he has seen his team struggle this season by allowing opposing teams back into the game.

In three of its four games so far this season, Drexel has led at halftime but played less impressively in the second half.

In their only loss on the season, the Dragons opened the season at then-No. 22 UCLA. A strong second half actually brought the Dragons back into the game, but they ended up falling just short of winning, 72-67.

The Wildcats could potentially play No. 6 Duke for the championship, but that’s two games away. For now, Arizona’s focus should be on the Dragons, not the Blue Devils.

Who are the Drexel Dragons?

2012-13 record: 13-18 (9-9 Colonial Athletic Association)

2012-13 Notable victories: 69-58 versus Davidson

Top Recruits

Drexel features three freshmen whose best days are ahead of them. Rodney

Williams, Mohamed Bah and Major Canady are currently the leading freshmen on

the Dragons, with Williams averaging the most minutes (11) through four games.

Williams is a thick 6-foot-7 power forward that is built to be a bruiser and has above

average post moves. So far, though, Williams has averaged 2.3 rebounds and one

point per game.

Player to Watch For

Sophomore Tavon Allen has been huge for the Dragons off the bench. Similar to

Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allen at 6-foot-7 is lengthy and has made an

impact every time he’s come into the game for Drexel.

The ambidextrous Allen is averaging 22.5 minutes off the bench and is making 50

percent of his field goals. He will be an interesting matchup for Arizona’s Aaron

Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson.

He Said It

“Chris Fouch, Damion Lee, Tavon Allen and Frantz Massenat, their point guard,

could start or play in a rotation in every team in the high major basketball,”

Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “Like they’re not pretty good, they’re really good.

They have toughness about them that I wish and hope we could get, but we don’t

have the experience that they have right now.”

Projected Starting Lineup

PG Frantz Massenat

SG Chris Fouch

SF Damion Lee

PF Kazembe Abif

C Dartaye Ruffin

—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

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