Blue Hens rally again for 58-56 CAA win over William & Mary

UD freshman Ithiel Horton, who netted a team-high 15 points, shoots over William & Mary’s Nathan Knight. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — For the third straight game, Delaware fell behind by double digits in the first half on Thursday night.

The first time that happened, the early deficit ballooned into a 45-point rout to Hofstra for the Blue Hens last Friday night.

On Thursday, however, for the second game in a row, Delaware climbed out of that early 12-point hole to rally for another big Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball victory.

After netting just five points in the first eight minutes and still trailing by a dozen points early in the second half, the Hens out-dueled William & Mary, 58-56, at the Carpenter Center.

Not only was it the second straight win for the Hens (2-1 CAA, 10-6 overall), but it snapped their six-game losing streak against the Tribe (2-1 CAA, 6-9 overall). And those six losses in a row had come by an average of 21.3 points each.

“The one thing Coach preaches is, ‘How tough are we when our backs are against the wall?’” said senior guard Darian Bryant. “I think we did a good job of that the last two times. At Northeastern (on Sunday) we were down by 12 in the first half and we fought back.

“Tonight, we fought back. We just have to be resilient and always have confidence in ourselves. We stepped up and made some big shots down the stretch. We just kept battling and battling.”

Delaware led a total of just 6:03 all night. But that included the final 5:41 of the contest.

Senior guard Darian Bryant, who hit some big shots down the stretch, drive to the basket in Thursday night’s game. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

Bryant buried a three-pointer from in front of the Hens’ bench with 5:41 remaining to put Delaware ahead to stay at 51-49. It was the Hens’ first lead since Ryan Allen sank a three-pointer in the first 53 seconds of the game.

Bryant then banked in a spinning drive in the lane to push Delaware’s cushion to 53-49. Finally, the senior sank a pair of free throws with 59 seconds left to give the Hens a 55-52 lead.

That added up to Bryant netting seven of Delaware’s final 10 points. He finished with 11 as four Hens scored in double figures.

“I wasn’t really feeling it in the first half,” said Bryant. “But I knew I was going to have another opportunity in the second half. I stepped up.”

“Darian’s the glue guy for us,” said freshman guard Ithiel Horton. “He does all the tough stuff. He goes and gets a rebound, he’ll take a charge for us, he’ll score for us, he’ll play good defense for us. That’s what we need.”

Horton made a couple clutch shots of his own. The freshman, who tallied a team-high 15 points, made three of four free throws in the final 43 seconds when William & Mary fouled to get the ball back.

The Tribe still had a chance at the end after Allen (11) missed a pair of foul shots with 20.3 seconds left.

William & Mary was able to get off two contested three-pointers in the closing seconds but missed both of them.

“I was terrified,” Horton admitted about going to the foul line. “I kind of hold a lot of pressure on myself. If I missed and we lost, I was going to blame myself.

“I went there and was like, ‘Listen, don’t worry about it. You know this is what you can do. You’re a shooter. Just knock them down.’”

Delaware went only a modest 9-for-15 from the foul line. But that was big compared to the Tribe’s 6-of-17 free-throw shooting.

William & Mary also went only 8-of-26 from three-point range, The Tribe’s 56-point total was its lowest against the Hens since 2013.

Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby only cared that it added up to a victory.

“It feels great,” he said about snapping the losing streak against William & Mary. “They’ve been like kryptonite a little bit. And we haven’t played very well here against them.

“When we went down, I was just trying to keep our guys positive and upbeat. … It wasn’t very pretty (offensively) but we kept fighting and battling. It’s nice to be able to get over the hump.”

Free throws

Eric Carter (12 points, 13 rebounds) also scored in double figures for Delaware. … Matt Milson finished with a game-high 19 points for William & Mary. … The Hens are home again on Saturday when they host Elon at 7 p.m.

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