For Tribe, it comes down to the foul line

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February 22, 2008

7:52 PM

p. Entering Wednesday night’s game against Drexel, the Tribe ranked last in the CAA in free-throws attempted. It’s a stat that has plagued the team since their season opener against Georgetown in November. While they’ve had success shooting three-pointers in Head Coach Tony Shaver’s perimeter-oriented offense, the Tribe’s inability to reach the foul line more than their opponents has hurt, especially in their most recent three-game road losing streak, during which they only attempted a combined 26 free throws.

All that changed Wednesday night in the friendly confines of Kaplan Arena, as they gutted out a 57-50 comeback victory and knocked down 20 foul shots, seven more than Drexel.

In the first half against the Dragons, the Tribe shot an abysmal 12.5 percent from beyond the three-point arc and struggled to execute their offense. They were lucky to be down by only three points heading into the locker room at halftime. In the second half, they turned up the pressure by pounding the ball inside and drawing fouls. Also, senior guard Nathan Mann moved well without the basketball and created open jump shots for himself. He canned two three-pointers down the stretch, igniting his team when they were struggling to score.

Leading the way for the Tribe during their second-half comeback was sophomore point guard David Schneider, who continually beat the Drexel defense on dribble drives to the basket and drew fouls instead of relying on his inconsistent jump shot. On defense, he forced several Drexel turnovers, which led to easy points for the Tribe.

Schneider, who leads the CAA in free-throw percentage, is at his best offensively when he penetrates and gets to the foul line. Many have said the Tribe lives and dies by its three-point shot, but that’s not the case. In the 12 games during which they’ve made more free-throws than their opponent, the Tribe is 11-1.

Another key in the Tribe’s victory was preventing Drexel forward Frank Elegar, a member of the CAA’s preseason first team, from getting offensive touches. In the Tribe’s 73-72 overtime win at Drexel in January, Elegar scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. But Wednesday, junior forward Peter Stein limited Elegar to nine points and five boards. The Tribe’s best defensive effort of the game came midway through the first half when Schneider was mismatched against Elegar. The much-taller Elegar tried a post-up move in the lane, but Schneider held his ground and forced him to pass the ball out to the perimeter.

For the majority of the game, Elegar was a non-factor on the low block as the Tribe big men double-teamed him and pressured him into forcing bad shots or passing it out to the perimeter. On the offensive side of the ball, the Tribe big men won the rebounding battle against Elegar and helped create many second-chance scoring opportunities. They finished with 13 second-chance points, compared to only four for Drexel.

E-mail Carl Siegmund at [email protected]

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