Milestone for Givens, CAA title for Drexel

Samme Givens (left) and Dartaye Ruffin celebrate 16th straight victory and a CAA regular-season title with the Drexel student section.
Samme Givens (left) and Dartaye Ruffin celebrate 16th straight victory and a CAA regular-season title with the Drexel student section. (CHARLES FOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 23, 2012

OF ALL THE rebounds Samme Givens has collected or will collect from here on out, he'll always remember the final one he hauled in last night.

It was Senior Night and Givens' final appearance in front of the Drexel crazies. He needed eight rebounds to become the 22nd area Division I player to score 1,000 points and collect 1,000 boards. When he grabbed a nondescript carom off teammate Dartaye Ruffin's missed shot, Givens etched his name next to some of the greats in Philadelphia college basketball history. Arguably the greatest of all sits at the top.

"Lionel Simmons? What did he score, 3,000 points in college?" Givens said. "Malik Rose, a Drexel guy, he won a lot here. It's just special."

What made things even more memorable was the Dragons won the game. They pulled away from James Madison, 78-61, for their 16th consecutive victory. The cherry on top was George Mason's surprising overtime loss at Northeastern, which allowed Drexel to clinch the first regular-season championship in the 11 seasons the Dragons have been in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Drexel will play its final regular-season game Saturday at Old Dominion and head to the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament in Richmond, Va., with a first-round bye. The Dragons' first game will be next Saturday, March 3, at noon against an opponent to be determined.

Givens led the Dragons with 18 points and Chris Fouch came off the bench with 14. Drexel had 19 assists, led by Derrick Thomas' six, and just three turnovers.

As great as last night was for Givens, a 6-5 power forward who attended Academy of the New Church, the best might be yet to come.

"For him to get a thousand points and a thousand rebounds is incredible - especially for his size," Dragons coach Bruiser Flint said. "You look at the list they had in the paper today and there were some [quality] dudes on that list. He's had a great career. He'll probably be all-league again . . . we hope we go to the postseason so that he ends his career right."

There is some question whether Drexel might deserve consideration for the NCAA Tournament if the Dragons do not win next weekend's CAA Tournament. A loss to the Dukes, who have an RPI of 256, would have ended that quickly. The Dragons' RPI is 75.

The Dragons' 16-game winning streak pushed their record to 24-5, 15-2 in the league and is the longest streak among the City Six since St. Joe's won 27 during that magical run in 2004.

James Madison started last night by hitting six of its first seven threes and eventually built an 11-point lead in the first half. Andrey Semenov is the second-best shooter in the league despite an injured right wrist. He hit his first four threes, but had only one in the last 31 minutes of the game.

"At halftime, we just talked about getting over the ball screen and keeping them off the three-point line," Flint said. "They did get some drives and some layups, but we kept them off the three-point line and therefore we were able to get away from them."

Givens seriously considered George Mason, VCU and Tulane before signing with Drexel. It was his grandfather, James Wynder, who steered him to the Dragons' campus.

"He's one of the main reasons I stayed in Philly," Givens said. "He told me, 'Listen. I know you like the schools down south, but I want you to stay here with us so we can come here and watch you play.' My grandfather is a big part of my life. To get [the milestone] out there, in front of these fans, they've been supporting us since we were 16-16 my freshman year. They've always been there."

Flint, in his 16th year as a college head coach, called Givens one of his all-time favorites. Then jabbed a little needle into the only senior on his roster.

"He gets mad when I tell him the reason he came to Drexel is because other Philly teams didn't recruit him," the coach said. "But they wish they had him now."

Dragon breaths

Former Saint Joseph's assistant and current JMU head coach Matt Brady was on the sidelines despite tearing his right Achilles' last Thursday. He had surgery Monday and still made the trip. He sat at the end of the bench during the game while Rob O'Driscoll (Villanova '94) ran the show for the Dukes . . . Outgoing Drexel radio play-by-play announcer Dan Baker was honored at halftime with a framed Dragons jersey for his 15 years of service to the school. Baker will continue as the stadium voice for the Phillies and Eagles, but is pulling the cord on his duties at 34th & Market.

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