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November 23, 2005Anybody that expected Duke to easily waltz into the NIT Season Tipoff championship game obviously underestimated Drexel.
The Dragons battled toe-to-toe with top ranked Duke at Madison Square Garden before finally falling 78-68.
Though limited to just two three pointers, J.J. Redick managed to score a game high 31 points to ensure that the Devils escaped the upset bid.
Drexel's energy level at the start of the game earned them a five point lead at 16-11 when the game went to the second media timeout under the 12 minute mark.
Shelden Williams tied the game at 16 with just under 11 minutes to go, and from that point the lead changed hands 17 times for the remainder of the half.
The Dragons forged ahead 42-41 on a Kenell Sanchez basket, but the Devils never trailed after Redick put them back on top with a layup on the next possession.
The lead fluctuated between one and 10 the rest of the way, but the Duke didn't have the game in hand until Redick's two free throws extended the lead to 76-68 with 20 seconds remaining.
The biggest concern for Duke following the tight struggle is the health of DeMarcus Nelson who was injured in the first half and did not return to the game. It looked like Nelson sustained an injury to his right ankle, and Mike Krzyzewski confirmed an initial diagnosis of a hairline fracture after the game.
Martynas Pocius stepped in and played 13 minutes to help fill the void left by Nelson. Pocius scored seven points on the night and was active defensively.
He could see his role increased if Nelson misses significant time with the injury.
Drexel guard Dominick Mejia spearheaded the Dragon offense against Duke with 25 points, including four three point shots while playing all 40 minutes in the game.