NEWARK — It was only a shootaround.
But Monte’ Ross said Delaware’s shootaround on Saturday morning was as good as he’s seen in nine seasons as the Blue Hens’ men’s basketball coach.
“It was unbelievable,” said Ross. “And we all said it, to a man — the whole coaching staff. … You would have thought we were 14-3 the way they went through shootaround. Upbeat, energetic and ready to go.”
Apparently, looks can be deceiving.
Because after looking so sharp earlier in the day, the Hens then let a lackluster first half turn into a 66-62 Colonial Athletic Association loss to struggling Drexel at the Carpenter Center on Saturday.
With a chance to win its third straight game, Delaware (2-4 CAA, 3-14 overall) instead fell behind by 12 at intermission and never caught up.
The rival Dragons (2-4 CAA, 4-13), who were coming off an embarrassing 54-35 loss to James Madison on Thursday, had just eight players suited up. They then lost one to fouls, going the last 12 minutes with only seven players.
But the Hens still couldn’t find a way to pull it out.
“I thought the biggest part of the game was how bad we came out in the first half,” said Ross. “I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but we’re not a great offensive team. So when you get down like that, it makes it difficult to come back.
“I thought we made a great run in the second half. But you just put yourself in such a hole. …”
“We didn’t come out strong at all,” said Delaware freshman guard Kory Holden. “That’s really what put us behind. We didn’t have enough energy. … Basically our defense was horrible in the first half.”
Drexel actually matched its 35-point total from the JMU game in the first half on Saturday when it pulled out to a 35-23 advantage.
The Hens, who never led, got within three at 63-60 when freshman Chivarsky Corbett (15 points) hit a three-pointer with 1:13 remaining. They then cut the gap to 64-62 on a Holden drive with 29.4 seconds on the clock.
But the Dragons made 2-of-4 free throws in the final 22 seconds and Delaware missed its final two shots to seal its fate.
Ross had warned his young players that, no matter how it played a couple nights ago, Drexel was going to give the Hens everything they could handle.
“The whole week in practice he stressed how good they were and how, when they play Delaware, they always have a chip on their shoulders,” said Corbett. “Their two stars, Davon Allen and Damion Lee, came out with a chip on their shoulders. It showed tonight how good they can be when they play us. It doesn’t matter the record.”
Lee finished with 17 points (going 10-for-10 from the foul line) with 11 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Allen added 13 points, going 2-for-4 from three-point range after he had been just 2-for-20 in his first five CAA games.
But what may have really killed the Hens was the play of Drexel big man Tyshawn Myles. After scoring just 15 points all season, the 6-foot-8 freshman finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday.
Delaware answered with 15 points from Corbett and 10 from sophomore Cazmon Hayes. The Hens, however, hurt themselves again by sinking only 16-of-25 free throws.
“I thought we ran some really good offense,” said Ross. “And a product of good offense is you get to the free throw line. But if you don’t make the other team pay when you get to the free throw line, it’s all for naught.”
Ross isn’t surprised by the way Drexel played on Saturday. He expected nothing less.
“The players, they’ve got a lot of pride,” said Ross. “They know that (JMU) game was on television, everybody saw it. They wanted to bounce back and show everybody they’re better than that. And they are better than that.”
The Hens shot only 4-of-19 from three-point range including 0-for-6 shooting from senior Kyle Anderson. … Hayes has scored in double figures in three straight games. …Delaware hosts William & Mary at 7 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s CAA tournament championship game.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.
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