Charleston pulls away to defeat Blue Hens 62-54

Freshman guard Ryan Allen netted a team-high 19 points for the Hens in Thursday night’s loss to Charleston. (Delaware sports information photo/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Maybe someday this is what Delaware will look like.

Maybe in another year or two, the Blue Hens will be the kind of team that can just hang around for most of the game and then simply assert its will in the last few minutes.

But, on Thursday night, that team was Charleston.

Looking like the veteran team they are, the Cougars netted 13 of the contest’s final 18 points to put away a hard-earned 62-54 CAA men’s basketball victory over Delaware at the Carpenter Center.

In the end, it didn’t matter that the Hens (4-5 CAA, 11-11 overall) led for 21 minutes compared to only 13:54 for Charleston (6-3, 15-6), the preseason favorite to win the Colonial.

The contest was tied 49-49 with 3:31 remaining and the Hens still trailed only 55-53 with 1:33 on the clock.

But the Cougars’ Joe Chealey (23 points) and Cameron Johnson buried back-to-back threes, Charleston’s lead ballooned to 61-54 with just 30 seconds to go and that was that.

“They really believe,” Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby said about the Cougars. “That’s something for us that we keep coming back to. I think we’re starting to believe. We went toe to toe with them and battled. It was game situations — a tied game.

“That’s a really good basketball team. They’ve won. There’s a culture. They have an identity of who they are. I think we’re starting to have an identity of who we are but it takes time.”

Making the final minute even tougher for the Hens was the fact that standout guard Ryan Daly had to be helped off the floor after injuring his ankle with 30 seconds remaining. With Delaware having to turn right around and host Hofstra on Saturday night, that leaves Daly’s status up in the air.

Daly did score 12 points on Thursday, pushing his double-digit scoring streak to 20 games in a row. On the other hand, Daly was 0-for-4 from three-point range.

As a team, the Hens went just 5-for-25 from beyond the arc with freshman guard Ryan Allen (19 points) going 5-for-14.

Delaware’s Skye Johnson pulls down a rebound against Charleston. (Delaware sports information photo/Mark Campbell)

After tying the contest at 49-49, Delaware made just one of its last five shots from the floor. The 54-point total was one shy of the Hens’ lowest total of the season.

“We had some really good offensive possessions but you’ve got to make some shots,” said Ingelsby. “I thought we had some pretty good looks. Against a team like that — a disciplined defensive team — you’ve got to step up and make some over top of them. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that.”

“We’re still a work in progress,” said junior forward Eric Carter, who collected nine points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocks. “We’re not finished at all. They (Charleston) are complete, they’re veterans. They’ve been in these situations more than us, because we’re young.

“But I’m proud of how my guys battled. We’re working, getting better every day and that’s all that matters.”

Probably Delaware’s biggest goal in the regular season is to not finish in the bottom four of the conference and have to play in a CAA tournament play-in game again.

Right now, the Hens are in a three-way tie for sixth in the 10-team league. For that matter, with everyone in the CAA having at least two league losses, they’re also only a couple wins out of second place.

The one thing Delaware needs to do right now is avoid getting mired in a long losing streak.

“We’re frustrated,” said Ingelsby. “I want them to be disappointed. That was a hard-fought game against the preseason favorite in our league.

“But we’ve got to have short-term memory. We’ve got to come back here and compete 48 hours later. We’ll watch some film tomorrow and kind of turn the page quickly.”

Having to play without Daly right now would be difficult. Even with everyone available, Delaware still has only eight scholarship players it can use.

On the other hand, the Hens believe in Daly’s competitiveness.

“I’m not sure of his status but he’s a tough guy,” said Allen. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back in 48 hours.”

Extra points

The loss was Delaware’s fifth straight to the Cougars. … Allen played 39 of 40 minutes with Daly and Darian Bryant both playing 37. … Charleston outrebounded the Hens, 45-35, including 13 offensive boards. … Delaware hosts Hofstra on Saturday at 7 p.m. before hosting Towson on Thursday night.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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