Champion Hofstra pounds Blue Hens 92-70 in CAA finale

Eric Carter, playing his last home game for the Blue Hens, netted 15 points Saturday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Delaware’s players wanted to prove they could play with anybody in the league.

Instead, all Hofstra proved was that it’s clearly the best men’s basketball team in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Blue Hens had some competitive moments but the afternoon belonged to the Pride as it put the finishing touches on its regular-season league title with a 92-70 victory over Delaware before a Carpenter Center crowd of 3,816 on Saturday.

The Hens (8-10 CAA, 16-15 overall) never led as they lost their fourth game in a row — although the last two setbacks came against the CAA’s two best teams, Northeastern and Hofstra (15-3 CAA, 25-6 overall).

“They’re really good,” said Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby. “They’re confident and they can score the basketball. They put so much pressure on you. And (Justin) Wright-Foreman is as good a scorer as there is in college basketball.

“Some of those possessions, I thought we did a really good job on the defensive end and it was just better offense. He (Wright-Foreman) makes some tough shots.”

Wright-Foreman, who’s second in Division I in scoring at 26.8 points per game, netted 28 on Saturday. The 6-foot-2 senior was 4-of-6 on three-pointers and 12-for-17 overall.

Freshman Ithiel Horton netted a team-high 26 points for Delaware, sinking 6-of-10 three-pointers.

But four other players finished in double figures for the Pride, who hit a smooth 33-of-55 shots from the floor (60 percent). Hofstra was even tough from the foul line, going 18-of-20 on free throws.

“I mean they’re good, man,” teary-eyed senior Eric Carter said after playing his last home game. “They hit shots in timely fashion, they score in bunches.”

The only time the Hens were even with Hofstra came in the first five minutes when Ryan Johnson scored off an offensive rebound to knot the score at 7-7. The Pride built a 44-31 advantage by halftime.

Ithiel Horton then almost got Delaware back in the game single-handidly. The freshman guard erupted for 16 of his team-high 26 points in the first nine minutes of the second half.

When Horton scored on a layup with 15:34 remaining, the Hens trailed just 52-44. But Delaware never got any closer as Hofstra methodically put away the Hens.

The 26-point outing was the biggest for Horton since he went off for a season-high 31 points and hit a school-record nine threes against UNCW on Jan. 10. Horton was 6-of-10 from beyond the arc on Saturday.

“When he gets going, he is a confident guy on the offensive end,” Ingelsby said about Horton. “I couldn’t be more excited about his future in our program as he continues to develop. I hope people didn’t put their votes in yet for (CAA) Rookie of the Year because that’s a heck of a statement on the last night of the regular season — to have a night like that against the best team in the league.”

“I haven’t really been having the best few games lately,” said Horton. “But I just continue to trust in Coach Ingelsby, trust in my guys. It’s kind of like mixed emotions right now. If we had gotten the win, it (his big game) definitely would have meant a lot to me. But it doesn’t really mean anything if we didn’t get the win.”

Delaware’s trouble on Saturday was that, besides Horton and Carter (15 points), nobody else scored more than seven.

Kevin Anderson returned to the court after missing four games and did have six assists with seven points. But Ryan Allen, who’s dealing with a foot injury, had only five points.

Still, the Hens say they’re heading to the CAA Tournament in Charleston, S.C. with some confidence. Delaware is seeded fifth — its highest finish since winning the title in 2014 — and will face No. 4 William & Mary next Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

The teams split their two regular-season meetings.

Of course, if Delaware did get past the Tribe, they’d almost certainly face Hofstra again in the tourney semifinals.

“They’re beatable,” Carter said after complimenting the Pride. “We’ve got to go back to like a bootcamp. … It is what it is. Now we’ve got William & Mary. We’ve got to focus on them.

“We’ll get some rest and get back to work.”

Free throws

Allen didn’t start Saturday’s game but Ingelsby said it wasn’t because of his injury. He still played over 28 minutes but had his double-digit scoring streak of six games in a row was snapped … Hofstra out-rebounded the Hens, 35-22, with 10 offensive boards. … With six rebounds, Carter went over 800 for his career. … The Pride have won 10 of the last 11 meetings in the series.

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