It was all in the start for Drexel.
The Dragons had a few days of pent-up frustration and needed a good start which is exactly what they got in their opening 81-56 NIT win over visiting University of Central Florida.
Frantz Massenat, who had 18 points and 14 assists, said the players fed off the crowd.
“It was huge starting out that way with the way the crowd was into it,” he said. “It really gave us a lift.”
The Dragons scored the game’s first nine points, but then saw UCF draw to 11-9. Drexel then went on a 9-2 run, leading 20-11 and from that point never led by fewer than eight points.
Getting Derrick Thomas back after his suspension was huge for the Dragons because it enabled Chris Fouch to go back to his sixth man role, providing Drexel energy off the bench.
Fouch said he was feeling it from deep range and he scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 11 from beyond the arc.
“We were obviously disappointed not to be in the NCAA Tournament, but we knew we had business to take care of,” Fouch said.
This business-type approach earned Drexel its school-record 28th win.
As usual, the Dragons defense was impressive. UCF shot 21-55 from the field (38.2 percent), including 4-15 from beyond the arc. The Knights didn’t help themselves at the foul line where they were (10-20).
What’s interesting is that in the first half, Drexel committed eight fouls compared to two for UCF, but it didn’t matter. The Dragons were able to get in transition, with Massenat especially going strong to the basket.
So now the Dragons can forget about talking about the NCAA’s. It’s not just that they are looking for redemption. There’s the simple fact that they want to win basketball games.
“Our last game was a loss,” Massenat said, referring to the 59-56 defeat to VCU in the Colonial Athletic Association championship on March 5. “We wanted to get back on the winning track.”