The Blue Hens looked shell-shocked as Ithiel Thorton’s desperation 3-point attempt banked high off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
In-state rival Delaware State upset the University of Delaware 73-71 on Wednesday night in the latter’s final non-conference game of the season. Coming in, the Hornets were winless on the road and opponents outscored them by an average of 15.5 points per game.
Horton’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 18 seconds left completed a 7-0 run that tied the game at 71-71. The Blue Hen defense had finally managed to wrestle momentum away from DSU, but after a timeout, Kevin Larkin grabbed the rebound off a missed trey by Pinky Wiley and drove to the hole for the game-winning basket. Delaware was left with just 3.4 seconds, and Horton was forced to fling the ball up well beyond the perimeter.
“Give them credit, they were fabulous and they made big shot after big shot,” Blue Hen head coach Martin Ingelsby said. “I don’t think our second effort was there on the defensive end, and we allowed them to get confident. I think we were playing too fast and got the game to their tempo. Ithiel stepped up and made a huge one, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get a stop on that last possession to get it to overtime.”
It’s ironic that the Hornets’ last basket was the result of a missed three, because they played possessed from long range throughout the second half. In fact, all of their scoring for the first 11 minutes of the second came via the 3-pointer, which kept the Blue Hens (8-5) in catch-up mode. Delaware never trailed by more than seven in the period, but the tie at the end was as close as it got.
“We needed more than one guy to play well at the same time, and that’s what we go tonight,” DSU head coach Eric Skeeters said. “We’re just trying to get better every day. We’re laying the foundation. We wanted to play a good second half because we’ve had close games. At Washington State, we were down two (at halftime) and then they’re up 15 by the first media timeout.”
Senior Eric Carter posted his sixth double-double of the season with 23 points and 15 rebounds, both game-high totals. He finished 8-for-10 from the floor, but the rest of the team went 17-for-48 (35 percent). The Blue Hens also made just six of their 30 3-point shots, while DSU (3-8) drained eight in the second half alone.
The Hornets’ 13 treys were the most Delaware had allowed all season.
“In Delaware basketball, we have five phrases that we live by and we didn’t hold a testament to any of them,” Carter said. “It bit us today and they wanted it more. Guys were checked out and thought it was going to be a cakewalk. Division I, Division II, it doesn’t matter. A team is a team and when they come to play you, they’re coming to win. We have to get better at ball-screen defense. It starts with me as a leader and I have to do a much better job in order to win games.”
The two teams battled evenly through a first half that featured nine lead changes and five ties. The Blue Hens took a 31-28 lead with 3:21 left, but DSU ended the half with a 10-3 run and a 38-34 advantage. It was the team’s first halftime lead on the road all season.
Delaware quickly tied the game at 38-all with a long two from Horton and a Carter layup, but then DSU’s downtown show began. The visitors sank seven 3-pointers over the next seven minutes. Saleik Edwards made four of them, the last two of which came after Carter erased a 53-47 deficit with a layup and four foul shots.
The Hornets were content to take shorter baskets after that and made enough down the stretch to stay in front.
Larkin had 22 points and 13 rebounds for DSU, while Edwards finished with 18.
Three other players joined Carter in double figures for Delaware. Matt Veretto and Kevin Anderson scored 13 and 11, respectively, while Horton posted six assists. Sophomore Ryan Allen, the reigning CAA Rookie of the Year, came off the bench in his second game back from a foot injury. He went just 1-for-8 behind the arc after making five treys against Stony Brook, but he managed to score 10 points.
“He’s still trying to get himself in game shape and get into a rhythm,” Ingelsby said. “It’s kind of a fine line because that group has played together a lot, and now you’re inserting a key guy. I think he was forcing some things on the offensive end, but hopefully when we come back from Christmas we’ll get a few good practices in to get him ready to go.”
After starting the year 8-3, Delaware enters the holiday break with a pair of deflating losses. The team hopes to re-emerge with a new mindset. It opens conference play on the road against Hofstra on Dec. 28.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board defensively,” Ingelsby said. “We’re not a very good defensive team right now. There’s a lot of games left, but this one stings and it has to sting.”