The way college basketball works, a team’s season is never truly over until it loses a game in a tournament.
The simple truth is that any hope Drexel has of qualifying for the NCAA tournament is going to come down to the Dragons winning the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Ultimately, it will come down to winning three or four consecutive games in March in North Charleston, S.C.
The task for the Drexel players for the rest of the regular season is to convince themselves that they are capable of pulling that off.
The Dragons came away with a huge confidence builder on Saturday at the Daskalakis Athletic Center by beating Northeastern, 68-67, for an important CAA win.
Tramaine Isabell made a free throw with 1 second remaining to lead the Dragons (9-14, 3-7 CAA) to a win over the conference-leading Huskies (14-8, 7-3). Austin Williams had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He also added six blocks.
“It’s huge, especially because it was not a beautiful win,” Isabell said. “It was kind of ugly. But we stuck together. We stayed with the game plan. We continued to play on defense. It showed us what we are capable of.”
Isabell’s free throw capped a wild finish for Drexel, which outscored Northeastern, 7-0, in the final two minutes.
With the Dragons trailing, 67-66, with 2.5 seconds remaining, Isabell tied the game with a free throw but missed the second.
The ball went to the right and Isabell hustled from the free-throw line after it. Just as he reached the ball, Northeastern’s Bolden Brace slammed into him and was called for the foul.
The officials put a second on the clock and Isabell made the first and intentionally missed the second.
“When it came off, I knew there was still time to try to score,” Isabell said. “I got to the ball and wanted to sell it. I’m not necessarily sure if he did foul me, but we’ll take it.”
It’s step by step for Drexel.
A close loss at James Madison, a win over Elon, and now a win over Northeastern builds momentum.
Holding a team like the Huskies, who came in shooting 51.4 percent from the floor, to 42.4 percent shooting and 27.8 percent (5-for-18) on three-pointers boosts the Dragons’ confidence that their strong defense can carry them.
Keeping composure during a game that sometimes looked like it might slip away is the kind of thing the Dragons need to do consistently.
“No one tried to take a four-point shot,” Drexel coach Zach Spiker said. “No one tried to make a hero play. We got the right looks. I thought we had a group of guys who played poised down the stretch. We’re trying to build something. We’re 9-14. We’re 3-7. We need to act like it. We need to be hungry.”