Alabama (3-2) vs. Drexel (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 29, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Alabama 3-0, Drexel 0-0. Away Record: Alabama 0-0, Drexel 2-1. Neutral Record: Alabama 0-2, Drexel 1-0. Conference Record: Alabama 0-0, Drexel 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Drexel Dragons and Alabama Crimson Tide will try to salvage something from their trip to the Big Apple, as they meet up in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on Friday afternoon.
Bruiser Flint's Dragons had fourth-ranked Arizona on the ropes in the semifinals, but allowed the Wildcats to battle back and eventually take a 66-62 decision. The loss was the second on the season for Drexel, which lost to nationally-ranked UCLA in the season opener, before reeling off three straight victories.
Anthony Grant's Crimson Tide have taken a similar path to this contest. Alabama opened the 2013-14 campaign with a loss to Oklahoma, followed by three consecutive wins. The team however, couldn't keep the momentum going in its semifinal matchup with sixth-ranked Duke, falling to the Blue Devils, 74-64.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
Alabama was a bit stifled by Duke in Wednesday's action, as the Crimson Tide scored a season-low 64 points, were held to just .404 shooting and turned the ball over 16 times. Nick Jacobs led the way at the offensive end for Alabama, coming off the bench with 18 points and seven rebounds. Leading scorer Trevor Releford had a subdued performance, netting 11 points, while Algie Key chipped in with 11 himself.
Despite the poor offensive showing for Alabama, the Tide are still boasting strong numbers at that end of the floor overall. UA comes into this contest averaging 78.0 ppg and doing so on an even 50 percent shooting. Releford is shooting .551 from the field, bolstered by a .440 effort from behind the arc, as he leads the team with 16.6 ppg. Retin Obasohan is next in line with 14.0 ppg, while Levi Randolph and Key chip in with 10.4 ppg apiece.
Drexel took it right to the Wildcats on Wednesday and opened up a 19-point first-half lead. However, Arizona chipped away before the break and opened the second half with a 12-3 run to get back into it. A back-and-forth contest ensued the rest of the way, with Drexel coming up short in the end. The loss spoiled a strong performance by Chris Fouch, who netted a game-high 27 points, on 11-of-27 shooting. Frantz Massenat added 17 points to the cause, but the rest of the roster added just 16 points combined.
The Dragons aren't a prolific scoring team, averaging a modest 69.6 ppg on just .415 shooting overall. Still, there is some balance in terms of offensive production, with four players averaging double digits. Fouch is clearly the go-to-guy at the offensive end, averaging just under 20 points per game (19.6). Massenat is both a solid scorer (13.2 ppg) and the team's top distributor (4.8 apg). Damion Lee (13.0 ppg) and Tavon Allen (11.8 ppg) give the Dragons a couple more options.
Both teams showed grit and determination against superior foes last time out. This should be a good game that comes down to the wire. Give Drexel a slight edge with the way Fouch is lighting it up.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drexel 74, Alabama 71
11/29 10:43:08 ET