|We just can't quit you, Wawa.|
|A view from the Uecker seats at La Salle.|
At various points in the game, each team appeared ready to run their opponent off the floor. VCU led by 11 midway through the first half, but a combination of poor free throw shooting and indifferent halfcourt offense (note to those filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket - if the Rams face a team that protects the basketball and can defend a bit in the halfcourt, they might be in trouble, though FOGTB @VCULitos disagrees) allowed La Salle to creep back to within four at the half.
The roles were reversed in the second frame, as the Explorers took a 10-point lead with 5:15 to play to the raucous delight of the Gola faithful. But Treveon Graham (34 points, 12 boards) and Juvonte Reddic (27 and 15) took over for VCU, scoring all of their team's final 14 points in regulation (and all seven of VCU's points in the first overtime) to keep the Rams alive.
|I'm pretty sure La Salle's mascot is modeled after Father Guido Sarducci.|
Famished, the Teej and I scored a pair of dry, semi-stale Philly 'soft' pretzels on the way out of the gym and stepped out into a heavy snow and a slushy mess. On our way back to the car, we passed ESPN's John Saunders (who'd called the game with Dan Dakich on ESPN2) standing by himself on the sidewalk with a bag in each hand, looking for all the world like he'd been forgotten by his ride. A combination of gullets crammed with pretzel and surprise conspired to rob us of our opportunity to kibitz with Saunders. But I'm sure our repartee would've been witty.
|Worst. Pretzel. Ever.|
"Survive and advance", said TJ, and we did, arriving at the John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center on Drexel's urban campus eight minutes before the W&M/Drexel tip. The DAC, as its known, seats 2,500, many of whom are within five feet of the playing surface. It's got a really cool, almost menacing vibe. As W&M coach Tony Shaver said after the game, it's a very tough place for road teams to play. We scored much better seats for the second game of our twinbill, winding up four rows behind the W&M bench - close enough to see the bristles of Shaver's mustache. (And, as it turns out, catch his demeanor in the late-game huddle that preceded the stunning end.)
|We splurged for seats with backs to them at the DAC. Was money very well spent.|
But W&M young assistant coaches did a terrific job of pumping up a team that had been on the road for five days and got "their fannies kicked" (per Shaver) at Hofstra on Wednesday. Lesser W&M squads (read: most previous W&M squads) would've packed it in and been run out of the gym. The partisan DAC crowd certainly expected that outcome.
When Kyle Gaillard and Thornton sandwiched three-pointers around a trio of Tim Rusthoven (15 points, 5 boards, 4 assists) buckets, though, the Tribe had run off the first 10 points of the second half to take the lead, and the game was on.
Drexel fought back to take a seven-point lead on a Freddie Wilson jumper at the 9:45 mark. The offensively-challenged Wilson's made shot (TJ and I took to exhorting him to shoot every time he touched the ball) caused Shaver to raise his hands in the air in exasperation.
|Perhaps the saddest display of fan chest painting I've ever seen.|
Thornton's pass made freshman Daniel Dixon smile as he headed back on defense, but the youngster gave his coach and W&M fans reasons of their own to feel good. Though he didn't do much on offense, Dixon was critical in slowing Fouch down in the second half. While the Drexel sixth-year senior finished with a career-high 31 points, he only made two of seven shots after Dixon got the defensive assignment on him.
|This kid was absolutely my fan of the game. Just an amazing display of fashion.|
Frantz Massenat hit a vital three for Drexel to draw the Dragons within a pair with two minutes to play, and then Fouch scored on consecutive drives to put Drexel on top. The last of his 31 points came on a tough floater with Dixon all over him, giving the home team a 66-65 advantage with 8.1 seconds left.
Shaver called timeout, and addressed his team in the huddle. He got down to his knees, and damned if he wasn't smiling. Amidst the maelstrom, he radiated calm and while we couldn't hear him, it sure looked like he was telling the Tribe how much fun the whole thing was. TJ noticed it right away, saying, "Look at Shaver! He's smiling!"
At that moment, I turned to TJ and said, "We've got Marcus". Meanwhile, he was tweeting, #InMarcusWeTrust. If we knew where the ball was going, it sure seemed to be news to Bruiser Flint. The Drexel coach only applied token pressure on the inbound pass, and didn't attempt in any way to deny Thornton the ball. The junior guard dribbled the ball upcourt against Major Canady, with the imposing Dartaye Ruffin (who makes Greg Oden look cherubic) lurking to deny a drive to the basket.
Allegedly, W&M had five players on the court, but there was nobody in the gym that expected four of them to see the ball. Thornton weaved his way into the frontcourt, drove hard towards the right, then froze Canady on a crossover before stepping back, elevating, and shooting.
You know what happened next, as do millions of Americans, thanks to yesterday's SportsCenter Top 10. The last three of Thornton's 26 points snapped through the twine, a few dozen W&M boosters went bonkers, the Tribe bench erupted, and 2,000 Drexel fans went dead silent.
Which was good, because it meant we could hear Flint's expletive-laden assault on the officials. The Drexel coach's demeanor contrasted sharply with Shaver's grace under pressure, and while Flint may have had a point (W&M was only called for five second half fouls, an undeniably favorable whistle for a road team.), he came off for all the world like a deranged lunatic.
I'll take our guy, thanks.
Thanks to a gracious recommendation by FOGTB and Drexel fan Dan Crain (@metsox1, and the proprietor of the well-written Dragons Speak blog), TJ and I made our way to The New Deck Tavern for postgame recovery drinks and the first real meal we'd had all day.
TJ had the presence of mind to record a Vine of the Thornton shot, which blew up all over social media in the hours after the game. He kept exclaiming with amazement as first a trickle, then a flood of people retweeted and passed the video around. Even a couple of national outlets got into the act. (We got to see which of them were willing to steal a video from a hard-working blogger without attribution, too. Not naming names, but let's just say one of them is a national sports outlet that starts with N and ends with BCSN.) We got back to DC around 10:00, fairly well convinced that we'd witnessed as good a day of basketball as we're likely to see anytime soon. At least until the CAA Tournament in Baltimore.
It was a terrific day of hoops. But the chance to hang out with my man TJ might've been even better.
Sports, my friends. They're awesome.
|#gtbhoopsroadie was a rousing success. See you all in Baltimore for Part Deux.|