Blue Hen men improve to 9-0: Top Columbia 84-76 for best start in team history

Blue Hen junior guard Ryan Allen, who finished with 20 points, drives to the basket in Monday’s win over Columbia. Delaware sports information/Sarah Boekholder

NEWARK — Columbia didn’t exactly have Delaware on the ropes.

But the Lions did slice a 18-point lead down to a mere four points in the final 10 minutes.

Just like they’ve done in the last few games, though, the Blue Hens didn’t let the Lions’ charge faze them.

Delaware calmly got its advantage back to 10 before walking off the Carpenter Center floor with an 84-76 victory over Columbia in men’s basketball on Monday night.

This one put the Hens (9-0) in the record books as the first Delaware squad to start a season with nine straight wins.

Coach Martin Ingelsby said he liked the way his players handled a 22-9 run by the Lions (3-6) that got them within 67-63 with 6:29 remaining.

“I’m not sure in years past we would have been able to do that, to be honest with you,” said Ingelsby. “I think this group has a great spirit and belief about them — kind of calming resolve.

“We’ve used some key timeouts to settle us down and talk. A lot of times, when I go over there, those guys are talking to each other and kind of thinking the game for us. That’s been fun to see.”

Part of Delaware’s confidence comes from the fact that all its starters are capable of hitting big shots.

Sophomore forward Justyn Mutts collected 24 points and 15 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double.

All five starters finished in double figures, led by sophomore Justyn Mutts (24 points, 15 rebounds) who posted his fourth straight double-double. Also reaching double digits were Ryan Allen (20), Nate Darling (16), Kevin Anderson (11) and Collin Goss (10).

Allen said the Hens have confidence in anyone taking a shot in crunch time.

“My teammates trust me to take those shots,” said Allen. “But, at the same time, I trust them to take that shot. We’re a close team. The same expectations they have for me, I have for them,

“We hold each other to a high standard. Taking clutch shots in the last five minutes of the game is something that we pretty much trust each other to do.”

Columbia still was within six going into the final two minutes. But twice in a row Anderson (five assists) fired entry passes — the first to Mutts and the second to Goss — for easy baskets that stretched the Hens’ lead back to 78-68 with 1:11 remaining.

Mutts said the other team is always going to make a run, no matter how much it looks like the game is under control.

“It’s just about staying together with your team and never falling apart,” he said. “I feel as though we have a really good system here that works. We just stick to it.

“Even when other teams are making runs, we feel we are a good enough team to stay solid and that’ll carry us to the end of the game.”

“You learn a lot about your team,” Ingeslby said about the pressure situations. “We’ll go back and watch the tape and see how those segments go.

“We were struggling to score but it really settled us down going inside to Justyn Mutts. I believe we ran the same play five times in a row to get him a touch on the block. He’s such a confident offensive player right now that it settled us down. It didn’t let us rely on jump shots as much. I thought he was fabulous going to work.”

When the game ended, the UD pep band chanted ‘Undefeated, undefeated’ at the Hens. Considering Delaware plays its next four games outside the Carpenter Center — including a Dec. 14th matchup with Villanova — they might very well not still be undefeated when they take to this floor again.

Senior center Collin Goss, who had 10 points, looks to put up a shot in Monday’s game.

Delaware’s players are proud of the accomplishment of being the program’s first 9-0 team, they just hope they’ve accomplished bigger things by the time the season is over.

“It feels good but it was expected coming in,” said Allen. “We had pieces that we knew were going to help our team a lot. We looked at our (early) schedule and there weren’t too many teams on it that can beat us.”

“I think about where we were when we took this program over a couple years ago,” said Ingelsby, who in his fourth season at UD. “To think we’d be in the position we are — at 9-0 to start the season. … We’ve made unbelievable progress, not just on the basketball court, but within our basketball program and our culture and what we’ve established.

“I love our team, I love our group. They’re worked really hard to get to this point. I congratulated them on the 9-0 start but we’re going to continue to be greedy and know it’s bigger than that.”

Free throws

Delaware has scored at least 75 points in six straight games for the first time since 2014. … Columbia’s 5-foot-11 senior guard, Mike Smith, finished with a game-high 26 points, including three three-pointers. … Five different players hit a three for the Hens, who went 9-for-20 from beyond the arc. … The Hens got only three points from their bench. … Delaware went 17-of-19 from the foul line, with 7-of-8 shooting from Mutts and 6-of-6 shooting from Allen. … The Hens’ next game is at George Washington on Saturday at 4 p.m. … The Hens’ next game in the state is on Dec. 16 when they face Delaware State at the 76ers Field House in Wilmington.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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