Comeback falls short as Hens fall to Drexel 68-60

PHILADELPHIA — In a perfect world, Delaware would be playing its best basketball of the season right now.

But that’s just not the case.

The Blue Hens managed only 21 first-half points and their late-game comeback was too little, too late as they fell to rival Drexel, 68-60, on Saturday evening at the Dakalakis Center.

It was the second-straight loss for Delaware (8-8 CAA, 16-13 overall) against a team that’s below them in the CAA men’s basketball standings. The fact that the Hens had a week off since their last game left them scratching their heads a little bit.

“I think we just got complacent,” said senior Eric Carter, who netted 17 points. “They were just tougher and we were settling for first shots instead of making extra passes. We’ve just got to get better right now. We’re in a tough spot.”

“I thought they competed and played harder than we did,” said Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby. “And they wanted it more than we did. We really challenged our older guys at halftime that they have to be better and we have to do it as a group and leave it all out there.

“We were a little tired, no doubt about it. … Scoring 21 points in the first half, it felt like it was a 15-point game at half — and we were only down six.”

True, the Hens were only behind 27-21 at intermission. But the Dragons (7-9 CAA, 13-16 overall) eventually went up by as many as 15 points with 5:37 left in the game.

Delaware did rally in the closing minutes. The Hens closed within 61-56 and had Ryan Allen (18 points) at the foul line with 1:35 still remaining.

But the sophomore guard missed both free throws as well as a jumper 15 seconds later and Delaware never seriously threatened again.

The Hens were just 15-of-24 from the foul line. Drexel wasn’t too much better at 17-of-24, but the Dragons weren’t the team that lost by eight.

The other telling stat was that Delaware was out-rebounded, 39-24, with Drexel grabbing 14 offensive rebounds.

While there were nine lead changes in the first half, the Hens trailed for the final 28:11 of the contest.

“We’ve got guys banged up,” said Ingelsby. “I know Ryan Allen is not healthy, Darian Bryant is not healthy and obviously we’re down a man. Guys were tired and fatigued.

“I just didn’t think we had it together for 40 minutes. We’ve got guys who are searching a little bit — how do they help their team, how do they impact our group. I’ve got to try to find ways to help them.”

Clearly, Delaware misses Kevin Anderson. The sophomore guard missed his third-straight game for what is being termed ‘personal reasons.’

Anderson averages 10.4 points per game with 93 assists this season. Allen, who a team-best five assists and just one turnover on Saturday, has taken over more of Anderson’s point guard duties in his absence.

“I’ve got to focus on getting other people going,” said Allen, who played a team-high 38:17. “With him being such a great point guard, I feel like I’ve got to take things from his game and add it to my game now.

“We’re a more-composed team out there with Kevin on the floor. He gets us into our offenses, he attacks the rim. It helps having another play-maker like Kevin out there.”

With two regular-season games remaining, Delaware is still in fourth place in the CAA standings. The Hens are still in good shape to avoid the conference tournament play-in round by not finishing seventh or lower.

But, while Delaware’s last two games are at home, those contests are against second-place Northeastern on Thursday night and first-place Hofstra on Saturday at 4 p.m.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Carter, one of only three seniuor on the roster. “But it’s going to be fun and exciting. … We have to go back on Monday and continue to watch and get better. If we can have three good days of practice heading into this weekend, we can have a solid run and have some momentum going into the tournament.”

Extra points

The home team has won the last eight meetings in the UD-Drexel series. … Four Dragons finished in double figures led by Camren Wynter with 19. … Carter moved into 30th place on Delaware’s all-time scoring list. … Besides Allen, Bryant played 36:51 of Saturday’s game. … The Hens turned the ball over only six times.

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