DOVER — DeAndre Haywood had the ball in his hands and open court in front of him.
Haywood slowed down for a brief moment, almost as if he was trying to take the whole scene in, before exploding upward for a two-handed dunk.
Haywood’s jam in the closing seconds gave him 20 points and helped seal a 66-56 MidEastern Athletic Conference victory for Delaware State over Howard on Haywood’s senior night, Thursday evening.
“It felt so good,” Haywood said. “I came in here four years ago and I grew up as a man. To finish it off like that, that’s what I came here to do. To finish it with a dunk, it’s an amazing experience.”
“It was just a fun experience,” Haywood said. “I’m happy I was able to help get a win for my team and get on the right track for the MEAC tournament.”
The Hornets finished the conference season at 7-9 and earned the ninth seed in the MEAC tournament which begins next week. They’ll take on either Coppin State or South Carolina State in the first round on Tuesday at 4 p.m..
The Hornets snapped a three-game losing streak on Thursday thanks to outscoring Howard 37-28 in the second half.
Devaughn Mallory helped pace the Hornets with a double-double. The Polytech High product scored 10 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
The rebound mark was a career-high for the sophomore.
“Coach has said from preseason rebounding would be a major key for me,” Mallory said. “Last year we struggled rebounding. He told me face-to-face we needed a rebounder and I said, ‘OK, Coach I got you.’”
Mallory’s effort on the boards allowed DSU to out-rebound Howard 45-30.
“He’s been playing some very good basketball,” said DSU coach Keith Walker. “He’s coming into his own. I think he’s going to blossom full bloom these next two years.”
Delaware State led at halftime before starting the second half on an 8-0 as Devin Morgan converted on his first two three-point attempts of the half. Morgan finished with 12 points.
Kavon Waller was also in double figures with 13.
Joe Lewis gave the Hornets a spark off the bench, going perfect from the field. After sitting the entire first half, Lewis scored six points and had four rebounds in 10 minutes of action in the second half.
Mrdjan Gasevic was the other senior honored along with Haywood before the game. The Serbian started and netted four points on the night.
The closest Howard got in the second half was 41-40 at the under-12 media timeout but DelState responded with a 12-4 run over the course of the next seven minutes.
“We finished pretty much mistake-free down the stretch,” Walker said. “We didn’t turn it over which was one of the keys to this win.”
Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at firstname.lastname@example.org