Big crowd sees UD men beat Towson in CAA contest

Nate Darling scored 34 points for Delaware against Towson. Delaware Sports Information/Sarah Boekholder

NEWARK — Delaware men’s basketball crowds have always been erratic.

UD’s holiday break goes right into a long winter session that means the Blue Hens play almost two months without school being in full session.

And, of course, Delaware hasn’t always given the students something to be excited about, either.

But Thursday evening was just one of those nights when everything fell into place.

A big crowd showed up and the Hens delivered with their fifth-straight victory, an 84-78 CAA win over Towson before a crowd of 4,675 at the Carpenter Center.

Nate Darling poured in 34 points and Delaware (7-4 CAA, 17-7 overall) trailed only once, when the Tigers (7-5 CAA, 13-11 overall) scored the game’s first basket. The victory allowed the Hens to switch places with Towson for the fourth spot in the Colonial Athletic Association standings.

Delaware’s players said there was definitely a different energy in the arena.

“It was awesome,” said Darling. “I was feeling it. I was screaming at the start of the game. When I sat down, I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to chill out a little bit.’

“It was fun. We finally had a really big crowd. They were excited and we put on a pretty decent show. I hope we can continue to get crowds like that.”

The Hens started the contest like they were excited, too. Delaware buried three straight three-pointers to open up a 21-9 lead in the first seven minutes.

The Hens went up by as many as 16 in the first half before taking a 42-32 halftime advantage. Darling and Ryan Allen (18 points) both sank four first-half threes.

Delaware was especially glad to see Allen hit some big shots. The junior guard had struggled with his outside shot the last couple weeks.

Allen has also been struggling with illness, saying he lost 13 pounds.

“It felt good,” he said. “But I’m always confident in myself. My teammates are always confident in me. I think the main thing was me getting back in the shape I wanted to be. I just feel better.”

“Welcome back Ryan Allen,” coach Martin Ingelsby said with a smile. “He wasn’t himself. He’s struggled shooting the basketball. But when he’s scoring it like that and confident, we’ve got some weapons out there.”

Of course, the Tigers — who had won eight of their last nine meetings with Delaware — didn’t go away quietly.

Towson whittled the Hens’ lead down to just three points a couple times in the last five minutes.

But Kevin Anderson came down with a big offensive rebound before Darling nailed a clutch three-pointer with the shot-clock running down. The three stretched the Hens’ advantage to 72-64 with 1:38 remaining.

That was Delaware’s last field goal of the night. The Hens ended up making 12-of-14 foul shots in the final minute to keep the Tigers at bay.

They needed most of those points as everything Towson shot went in as they desperately tried to come back. The Tigers hit four threes in just the last minute.

For the game, Delaware was 27-of-32 from the foul line. Darling, who was 7-of-13 from three-point range, also went 9-of-10 from the foul line.

“I was pretty annoyed,” Darling said about Towson’s shots. “‘Rhy’ was like, ‘Can we just get a stop and get out here?’

“But sometimes when teams are in desperation mode they hit tough shots. … We’ve had experience and we’re confident.”