NEW YORK -- Five quick thoughts from Arizona’s 66-62 win over Drexel on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off:
Got nerves? Drexel jumped out to a 27-8 lead with 6:59 left in the first half, stunning the Garden crowd. No. 4-ranked Arizona, not Drexel, looked like the nervous, tentative squad -- perhaps due to its youth? The Wildcats do start a freshman and two sophomores.
Arizona got its act together after that. The Wildcats closed to within nine at halftime, and took the lead less than four minutes into the second half. Drexel didn’t fold, but Arizona eventually put the Dragons away. You can expect a better start from the Wildcats in Friday’s championship game.
Diaper dandy: Arizona’s highly touted freshman forward, Aaron Gordon, did not disappoint, with 10 points and 13 rebounds against Drexel.
Gordon didn’t blow anyone away Wednesday night -- he took only six shots from the field, scoring most of his points from the foul line. But he was active, particularly on the glass. It’s his fourth double-double in his first six collegiate games.
Size matters: The biggest difference in this game? Arizona’s front line. Drexel ultimately could not handle the starting group of 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, the 6-9 Gordon and 6-8 Brandon Ashley. The Dragons’ undersized post players were in foul trouble seemingly all game long.
That’s no disgrace. Most teams in America will have difficulty against a front line that big.
Real deal: Drexel is definitely a dangerous mid-major squad. The Dragons almost slayed No. 19 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion earlier this month as well.
Coach Bruiser Flint has an experienced starting backcourt in seniors Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat, two guards who can really fill it up. The Dragons were picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association behind Towson, but can certainly win that conference.
Up and down: You have to feel good for Fouch, a Bronx, N.Y., native who starred at Rice High School. A sixth-year senior who sat out last season with a broken ankle, Fouch scored a game-high 29 points in his New York City homecoming.
On the flip side, Drexel’s second-leading scorer, Damion Lee, suffered a right leg injury midway through the second half and did not return. Lee couldn’t put any weight on the leg -- it could be a serious injury, and a crippling blow to Drexel’s season.