TOWSON, Md. - Drexel finished its regular season today with a 77-68 victory over Towson in a Colonial Athletic Association contest that seemed to reflect the highs and lows of the Dragons' thrilling four-month ride so far.
The first half featured an offensive scoring machine, with Drexel shooting a season-high 69.6 percent from the field. But midway through the second half, the Dragons (22-7, 13-5 CAA) stumbled around, and a 12-point lead was reduced by the Tigers (14-16, 8-10) to a basket, 66-64, with 3 minutes, 6 seconds to play.
Then senior Dominick Mejia struck with a three-pointer, and the Drexel defense once again closed the deal - as it did earlier this season in upsets at Syracuse and Villanova.
"Our guards got me the ball at the right time and in the right place," said Mejia, who hit 4 of 6 three-pointers and had a team-high 18 points. "As far as my shooting goes, I caught the rhythm early today, and it carried over the game, and I was able to hit that big shot."
The last thing the Dragons needed was a loss going into the CAA tournament next weekend in Richmond, Va. They have won seven of their last 10 games to stay prominently in the mix for an NCAA at-large bid.
"We just want to advance," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "If you advance, you don't have to impress anybody. They let you in. Let's try to win the CAA tournament. We've never done that before."
The CAA champion gets an automatic bid. The conference profile, in terms of at-large bids, was raised a year ago when George Mason got a bid and advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
No matter what happened here or elsewhere today, Drexel was locked into the fourth seed for the CAA tournament. Hofstra's 98-78 victory over James Madison tonight kept the Dragons from finishing in a third-place tie with the Pride.
Flint was pleased with Mejia's performance, which has been consistent in recent games.
"I think I got the kid back where I want him," Flint said.
Scott Rodgers added 16 points to Drexel's total. Frank Elegar slammed his way inside for 14 points, although he did miss a dunk late in the game. Tramayne Hawthorne scored 10 points, and Chaz Crawford once again dominated the boards with 13 rebounds.
Towson's Gary Neal scored 30 points for the Tigers. It was the final home game for the transfer from La Salle, as it was for five other seniors at the Towson Center.
"It was a good feeling to walk out on the floor with my family," Neal said of the pregame ceremony. "Just seeing my career come to an end with all the stuff I went through. Those people that know me, know what I went through."
Neal transferred after being acquitted of rape charges at La Salle.
A 13-3 surge by the Tigers in the first half put Drexel in a seven-point deficit, 23-16, with 10:32 left in the half after Neal's layup. Then Drexel rallied with a 15-2 burst and eventually went into the break ahead, 45-35.
The Dragons kept firm control most of the second half until Towson began to take advantage of a series of turnovers.