Drexel gets early-morning win against Rider

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- Bruiser Flint wanted to go to sleep, but he got sucked into the midnight tip between Gonzaga and Washington State and before he knew it the clock read 2 a.m.

His wakeup call, all of a sudden, was a mere 90 minutes away.

“That’s OK, I’ll get a lot of sleep today,’’ the Drexel coach said.

And it will be a good rest.

His Dragons, the surprise pick to win the tough Colonial Athletic Association conference, won their opener against Rider 80-62, getting 21 points from big man Samme Givens and Frantz Massenat, who grew up down the street from the Rider campus.

The game tipped off at 6 a.m., as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, requiring players to arrive to Alumni Gym (or better known as the Broncs Zoo) at 4:45 in the morning and bag a typical pre-game breakfast. The Dragons subsisted on oranges, fruit and breakfast bars.

“Yeah, we’re pretty hungry,’’ Givens said.

Flint prepared his team by hosting 5 a.m. practices on Saturday and Sunday, a luxury Rider coach Tommy Dempsey didn’t have. The Broncs opened their season on Friday night at Robert Morris and then faced Pittsburgh on Sunday before flying home for the early-morning home debut.

“If I were asked to do this again, I don’t think I’d play three games in four nights, with the last one at 6 a.m.,’’ Dempsey said.

This game wasn’t a thing of beauty, but to blame the wee hours would be unfair to the clock. Drexel believes ugly is beautiful and so the final stat line -- a combined 28 missed 3-pointers, 44 personal fouls and 31 turnovers -- was exactly the way the Dragons like to play.

“We want to wear you down,’’ Flint said. “We want to punch you in the face and you say, ‘Ok’ and take a knee.’’

Which is exactly what happened to the Broncs. Drexel beat them down, outscoring Rider 52-34 in the final 20 minutes before the buzzer sounded and the fans headed out to work, class or a large cup of coffee.

The players?

They’re headed to class.

“We actually go to class at Drexel,’’ Flint joked. “We’ve got a good APR, so these guys are going to class. Me? I’m going to sleep.’’