TOWSON, Md. – The Drexel women's basketball team got a critical road victory on Sunday afternoon and ensured itself a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament as they went into Towson and defeated the Tigers for a second time this season, 58-53. Drexel led nearly the entire second half, but could not put away the pesky Tigers until Hollie Mershon free throws with 5.5 seconds to go made it a five-point game.
Kamile Nacickaite led all scorers with 18 points, including 12 in the second half. Mershon added 17 and a team-best seven rebounds, and Tyler Hale scored 13.
Drexel found itself trailing the Tigers late in the first half, falling behind 23-18 when Krystal Parnell sank a bucket with 5:33 to play. From there, the Dragons defense which has been the team's calling card all season clamped down. Towson did not score the remainder of the half, while Drexel went on a 7-0 run to take the lead into halftime. The spurt was capped when Hollie Mershon banked in a running, left-handed lay-up with 6.1 seconds remaining. She was fouled and hit the freebie to push Drexel's lead to 25-23 at the break.
That run at the end of the second half would prove to be the turning point. Neither team could establish control throughout, but the Dragons keeping Towson off the scoreboard for the end of the first half quieted the Senior Day crowd at the Towson Center, and gave them a boost heading into the break.
The Dragons took an uncharacteristically low number of three-pointers in the first half, missing both of their attempts from long range. That drought ended quickly after intermission, as Kamile Nacickaite spotted up from the top of the key and knocked down a three for Drexel's first points of the second half, breaking a brief 25-25 tie. When Nacickaite followed that up with a spinning, reverse lay-up with 18:16 remaining, Towson was forced to call a timeout to try to keep things under control.
Nacickaite's three at the beginning of the second half would ultimately be the only trey of the day for the Dragons. Drexel, which led by as many as eight several times during the second half but could not keep Towson from climbing back into the game, relied on a Princeton-style offense down the stretch. Mershon and Hale did an excellent job finding the holes in the Towson defense, working their way free for point-blank looks at the hoop.
With 2:24 to go, Mershon hit a lay-up to push the Drexel lead back to six after a three-pointer from Towson's Tanisha McTiller had the Tigers within four. That stopped momentum for Towson at a crucial time in the contest.
Drexel struggled from the line down the stretch, missing the front end of three-straight one-and-one opportunities. That allowed Towson to stay within reach until the very end. With seven seconds remaining, Krystal Parnell broke in front of the pack and scooped it up and in, cutting the Dragons' lead to 56-53. With 5.5 seconds left, Mershon was fouled and went to the line, hitting both free throws to, at long last, put the game away.
Tyler Hale, playing her final game as a collegian in her hometown nearby her alma mater Towson Catholic, scored 13 points, including nine in the second half. Ayana Lee, also a senior Baltimorean who starred at Seton Keough, had two points and three rebounds off the bench.
Drexel's win, combined with UNCW's loss at Hofstra, ensured the Dragons of a first-round bye in the upcoming CAA Tournament. The Dragons are tied with Hofstra for third place heading into the regular season's final game, but the Pride holds the tiebreaker thanks to their sweep of Drexel during the regular season. Should the Dragons win their finale against VCU on Wednesday and Hofstra fall to Northeastern that same evening, Drexel would move into the third seed.
Drexel hosts VCU on Senior Night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center on Wednesday. Tip off is set for 7:00 p.m. Tickets are still available for fans who want to say goodbye to seniors Marisa Crane, Tyler Hale, Ayana Lee and Kamile Nacickaite by visiting DrexelTickets.com