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College Basketball Recap: Drexel Comes Back to Down Cornell in Charleston

Drexel came back after halftime to erase a poor shooting effort and a nine-point deficit to grab 7th place from Cornell in the Charleston Tournament.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Drexel won. That in itself is news, because there was no reason that the Dragons should have had any business winning this game against Cornell given how the first half went.

Well, there is one reason they should have won, and that reason is named Damion Lee, who put the Dragons on his back in the second half to lead them from a nine-point halftime deficit to a 61-59 win over the Big Red.

But even that seems improbable. At one point, Drexel was 3-for-21 from the floor. That includes all shooters, even Lee. Drexel had to shoot 44 percent for the remainder of the game just to get to the ugly 33.9 percent shooting percentage that they finished with. No, it was not pretty.

Had this been anyone but Cornell, a team in the bottom 50 in the country, this game was over at halftime. The deficit isn't just nine points, it is more like 20, or what would seem like 100 given the shooting woes of the Dragons.

This is not the players' fault, at least not on a larger scale. This is a failure to build a team that can withstand injuries such as the Dragons have seen over the last few seasons. This is a failure to prevent those injuries because no team should be as jinxed as the one in West Philly.

Drexel was missing Major Canady (out for the year) and Kazembe Abif (out indefinitely). Given the roster, they can live without Canady, but Abif was going to be a big part of the limited success that was expected from the Dragons. The depth in the front court isn't there to live without a player like Abif for extended periods.

Which is why every Drexel fan gasped when Tavon Allen was sitting on the bench for the second half Sunday. Allen had hit his head on the court and was being held out as a precaution. Add that as another reason why the Dragons should never have been in the game, because he could have started to find the basket in the second half.

So when you have a team playing with just eight men against what seemed like a never-ending stream of fresh Cornell legs, you don't expect much.

Except if one of those players is Damion Lee. Lee went off for 28 points on 9 of 24 shooting, and seemed intent on not leaving Charleston without a win to Drexel's credit. Rodney Williams helped out inside with 14 rebounds, maybe the single highlight for a big man on the roster given that he was seemingly not available on offense despite playing 39 minutes.

That, right there. That is the problem with Drexel. Despite a wealth of guard talent walking through the door, or small forward talent like the Dragons had in Samme Givens during that one magical season, there has been no impact 4 or 5 on the floor in a decade. Maybe the best they have had was Frank Elegar, maybe. But even that is going back seven years.

You aren't going to build a team that can compete in Division 1 without a player who can bang inside, or change games because of his physical presence. That is why Drexel was dominant with Malik Rose in the middle. Yes, he was an NBA talent, but you could get by with less in the CAA.

Philadelphia sits within two hours of New York, Newark, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. There is no reason that a pair of solid, high ceiling mid-major power forwards can't be found in those five cities. Yes, there is competition for that kind of player. Yet to not land even one of those guys in a decade? That doesn't make any sense.

Drexel should be an attractive place to play for them. The Dragons have had a run of great point guards who could distribute the ball when needed. They play in a league that has long been on the verge of multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament. No, the facilities aren't great, but the competition isn't doing so much better that other factors couldn't outweigh the lack of a great gym.

If the Dragons can't find that, they are going to continue to struggle to grind out wins when the shooting isn't spectacular. They are going to have to rely on stellar performances like they have had from Lee in the last two games.

But there isn't going to be a player who hits eight 3-pointers in a game all the time. There isn't going to be a guy who is willing to give 150 percent of what he should in order to win. Lee is special. You aren't going to see that too often.

Drexel needs to start stacking the deck in its favor, and it needs to start figuring out why its players continue to fall victim to injuries year after year. The conditioning staff needs to get together and come up with a better plan. Or else Bruiser Flint needs to get a new conditioning staff before someone in charge starts looking for a new Bruiser Flint.

Yes, Drexel beat Cornell on Sunday. The Dragons finished 7th in Charleston, after just barely missing against USC (and blowing a lead that should have been solid in the 2nd half).

But there is not a lot to cheer about for the boys in blue, not by a long shot.