CAA: Identify Yourselves

By David Scott - March 03, 2007

(A look at the first semifinal game which will be played on Sunday at 3 p.m. pitting No. 1 seed VCU against No. 4 seed Drexel.)

RICHMOND - The buzz word coming from the Rams after VCU's 73-60 win over Georgia State on Saturday was "identity." As in the words of CAA Coach of the Year, Anthony Grant, "Our approach today was to come out and play to our identity," said the first-year VCU coach. "We wanted to play the way that we have played all year and pick up our intensity in terms of the way we defended."

Mission accomplished on that front, as VCU forced 20 Panther turnovers and converted them into 24 points. "Our press set the tone early," said Grant. "It took them out of a lot things they wanted to do in the second half as well."

For Drexel, Saturday's easy win over Northeastern wasn't always a thing of beauty (they shot 29 percent from the field in the second half), but it, like VCU's win, showed a bit of the Dragon's identity. "We play hard, we defend and we play smart," said Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, whose team also held the Huskies to 34 percent from the field and held a bench scoring advanatge of 15-0.

The two identities - VCU's pressing contrasted with Drexel's deliberate pace - will clash on Sunday in a re-match of Drexel's home loss of Jan. 27. The game will amount to another road contest for the Dragons, as VCU holds a huge homecourt advantage with its campus also in Downtown Richmond.

"We've been on the road a lot this year," said Flint. "We're road warriors and we may even play better on the road. I'm not worried about the crowd."

Nor should he be if the numbers are telling the truth: Drexel has six road wins against Top 100 RPI teams (the most of any in the nation) and 13 road victories overall (tied with Vermont, whom the Dragons beat in Burlington, for most in the nation).

Come 5 p.m. or so on Sunday, there will be one identity we're sure of and that will be who will be in the title game on Monday night to face the likely winner of a possible Hofstra-ODU match-up (if seeds hold tonight).

That's the only identity both Grant and Flint care about right now.

. . . Flint praised the end-of-the-first half play from Dominick Mejia when he stole the inbounds pass and buried a 3-pointer to give the Dragons a 17 point halftime lead. "That sort of knocked the wind out of them a little bit," said Flint.

Mejia said, "That was a good one. I had an airball before that, so I wanted to make up for it. I got the steal, they pretty much lost me and it was kind of a lazy inbound. I know I was closer to the out of bounds than to the 3-point line."

. . . It was the first CAA Tournament win for the Drexel senior class.

. . . The changeover is underway in the Coliseum and Towson and ODU players have already been out on the court for pre-game shooting. Both sets of cheerleaders are also stretching and in pre-game rituals. The respective schools pep bands are also tining up, with an early edge going to the Tiger musicians, who already appear to be in mid-game form.

Posted by David Scott at 04:51 PM on March 03, 2007

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