Drexel held American University star forward Russell (Boo) Bowers to his second lowest point production of the season and the Dragons advanced, 64-55, last night to the second round of the East Coast Conference playoffs.
The final score was not indicative of the game's frantic early pace, when AU continually missed layups and dropped passes. Yet the Eagles trailed by only seven points at halftime and pulled into a 41-38 lead with 10 minutes to play at Fort Myer.
Drexel advanced to a game Wednesday at Temple, the nation's No. 15 team, by doing what it had not in a 94-83 loss to the Eagles here last month. The Dragons handled AU's zone pressure well.
Bowers, the area's leading Division I scorer with a 23-point average, missed 14 of 20 shots in a 12-point game. He scored eight points against Navy in the third game of the season, but then took only 11 shors.
Typcial of Bowers' and his team's game-long frustrations were two layups he missed on the same possession of the first half. When the Eagles didn't miss layups, they dropped passes on fast breaks.
AU would have been better off not playing offense. Coach Gary Williams called the first half -- at one stage AU scored just two baskets in 23 possessions -- the worst he had witnessed as a player or coach.
Whatever could go wrong for AU did. Drexel even got two free throws off an offensive foul, a rarity. Mark Garlitos got Drexel guard Brian O'Loughlin into the air, then leaned into and under him for the offensive foul. Since it was an undercut, an automatic two free throws were awarded.
Drexel played well in improving its record to 18-8. In the first meeting, O'Loughlin had been on the bench with an ankle injury and the Dragons could not handle AU's full-court zone press, falling behind, 17-3, at the start of the game.
For the most part, O'Loughlin and one minor adjustment on the part of Drexel Coach Eddie Burke neutralized the AU press.
"When Brian takes charge, we're super," said Burke. "Well, we're not a super-duper team, but we play well. Can one man make that much of a difference? Yes."
Another guard, reserve Mike Moran, made the difference when AU, down nine points early in the second half, rallied to take its 41-38 lead.
Burke had called on Moran for better ball-handling, benching 6-foot-9 center Len Hatzenbeller. The move did not hurt the Dragons' rebounding -- they enjoyed a 38-25 advantage, nor its shooting.
A minute after coming in, Moran made his first shot, so AU players began double-teaming him. Then the Dragons stopped trying to force the ball inside and found patience. Moran passed off and the result was four straight baskets on open 15-foot jumpers.
O'Loughlin made three and Moran the other. With two misses by Bowers and one by center Piper Harvey, AU was down 46-41.
AU finished Williams' rookie head coaching season at 14-13, going 5-6 after star guard Stan Lamb, averaging 24 points per game, was ruled academically ineligible.
"All things considered, it was an amazing year," Williams said. "I'm proud of the guys. They held together well. If we gan continue to do that, we'll be okay."