Playing in their second consecutive overtime contest to kick off the season, the Drexel Dragons are facing a tough road to the NCAA Tournament after losing another nail-biter, this time to Illinois State, 86-84.
The Redbirds trailed for the majority of the game, but always found a way to keep the score close, and Drexel was never able to extend its lead to double digits. Whether it was senior Jackie Carmichael putting up two of his team-leading 21 points or Tyler Brown dropping buckets in overtime, Illinois State just wouldn't go away.
Fueled by junior guard Frantz Massenat's superb foul shooting (14-for-18 from the line) and attacking drives, the Dragons' offense kept near the basket early. The Illinois State defense decided to try and eliminate the 3-ball early, but when Drexel's offense successfully adapted, the Redbirds reverted to a more well-rounded defense. That's when the Dragons started to rain 3s.
Drexel guard Chris Fouch, coming off a 6-for-12 3-point shooting performance against Kent State, hit his first three 3-pointers as the Dragons took a 43-37 lead into halftime.
When it came to game-changers, though, all eyes were on ISU's Carmichael.
While not absolutely shutting Carmichael down, Drexel big man Daryl McCoy was decently effective in defending the all-star forward, who used his size and fantastic pump fakes to his advantage. McCoy contested a ton of Carmichael's shots, and managing to score a few blocks.
At the end of regulation, after a brilliant Fouch reverse layup fed by Massenat gave Drexel a two-point advantage, the Redbirds had the ball with the shot clock turned off. They naturally fed it ball down low to Carmichael, who posted up on McCoy and tried to create space with another of his slick turn-and-reverse moves.
After an initial separation, McCoy recovered and followed Carmichael's take to the hoop, albeit a tad late. When Carmichael overpowered his shot and missed long with two seconds left, Drexel fans rejoiced, believing they had sealed the deal. Except the refs called a foul on McCoy, a call that appeared questionable at best.
Carmichael hit his two foul shots (another strong point of his seemingly impenetrable game) to send the game to overtime. In OT, the Dragons dug themselves a deep hole by falling in love with the 3-pointer, and watched their chances slip away as the Redbirds refused to miss foul shots.
The loss drops the Dragons to 0-2, and marks the second season in a row that Drexel has dropped its home opener. The Redbirds are now 2-0 under first-year coach Dan Muller.