Drexel coach Bruiser Flint described Jonathan Lee’s hard-nosed play in Northeastern’s 59-52 Colonial Athletic Association victory over his Dragons Saturday night in a manner that resonated long after the crowd of 2,448 had filed out of Matthews Arena.
“The thing about Jonathan Lee was he played tough off the bump,’’ Flint said of NU’s senior co-captain, who led the first-place Huskies (14-8, 9-1) with a game-high 17 points and became the 32d player in school history to score 1,000 points.
Needing 15 points to reach his milestone, Lee fittingly achieved it on a hard-charging lane penetration that gave NU a 47-42 lead with 4:26 left in the game.
Tough off the bump?
“That’s why he got to the basket,’’ Flint said. “We didn’t play tough off the bump.’’
Lee became the sixth player in coach Bill Coen’s seven seasons at NU to reach the 1,000-point plateau, joining Matt Janning, Chaisson Allen, Manny Adako, Bennett Davis, and fellow cocaptain Joel Smith, who chipped in 14 points against the Dragons.
“It’s tremendous to join my best friend and cocaptain,’’ Lee said, as he and Smith flanked Coen during the postgame conference. “It’s just another personal goal, another mark. Now I just have to set a new one and that’s to help our team on our journey to reach the postseason.’’
But given the physical nature of Drexel, Lee knew he had to come prepared if he was going to help the Huskies rebound from their first conference loss Wednesday, a 78-73 setback to Georgia State.
“Just knowing Drexel from playing them for years, you already know what you’re going to be getting into coming into this game,’’ Lee said. “I just knew they were going to have it out for me and have it out for the team just in general and try to disrupt everything.
“So you got to accept the challenge and take it to them before they hit you first. That’s the mentality of this game.’’
Lee withstood heavy contact from Flint’s bruising Dragons to fearlessly drive the lane and finish. But when push came to shove, Lee dished it out.
“Pretty typical Drexel-Northeastern game,’’ said Coen, whose team swept the Dragons (9-13, 5-5) for the first time since the 2007-08 season, after scoring a 63-58 overtime victory at Drexel Jan. 8.
“Nothing’s easy. On either end of the floor, you have to fight for every inch, you have to fight for every rebound, every loose ball.’’
The frontcourt tandem of 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound Dartaye Ruffin (12 points, 11 rebounds) and 6-9, 280-pound Daryl McCoy (0 points, 11 rebounds) combined to help the Dragons outrebound NU by a considerable margin, 35-25.
The game was tied at 24 at halftime, and the teams exchanged the lead on seven consecutive possessions in the second half before Frantz Massenat (10 points) went to the line for three foul shots, hitting the last two to give the visitors a 35-32 edge with 14:27 to go.
“I was proud of the way we handled their pressure late in the game,’’ said Coen, whose team committed nine of its 13 turnovers in the first half. “And we finished the game the way you’re supposed to.’’
The only time it seemed Lee was unable to finish was with 2:27 left, when he attempted to convert a Quincy Ford outlet into an emphatic transition dunk and was waylaid by Damion Lee, Drexel’s scoring leader who was held to a season-low 7 points on 2-for-11 shooting in 22 foul-plagued minutes.
“The light came on and I just got really excited,’’ said Jonathan Lee. “I saw [Damion Lee] coming, I saw him on his horse trying to chase me down, but I knew I was going up strong because I knew that was the only way you were going to get a call in this game.’’
Officials hit Damion Lee with a flagrant foul that put NU’s unflappable guard on the line for a pair of foul shots that he made to give NU a 53-44 lead. The cushion grew to 56-46 when Reggie Spencer (7 points, 4 rebounds) hit the first of two foul shots with 1:42 left.