Daly’s 3 lifts Hens to third straight dramatic win 68-67 over Drexel

NEWARK — Ryan Daly didn’t really see any other options when he made that split-second decision.

Then again, the Delaware freshman admitted, he wasn’t really looking for any other options, either.

“It was kind of a risky shot shot by me,” said Daly. “I’m happy it fell because I would have felt bad if we lost that game.”

Following what is now becoming a very familiar script for the Blue Hens, Daly’s shot — a step-back three-pointer with 12.3 seconds left — did indeed fall to give Delaware another dramatic victory, this one a 68-67 win over rival Drexel at the Carpenter Center on Thursday night.

The Hens (5-10 CAA, 12-16 overall) now own a three-game winning streak in men’s basketball for the first time since 2014. That year, Delaware held a five-game winning streak after beating William & Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game.

Ryan Daly (0) is congratulated by teammates (let to right) Eric Carter, Jacob Cushing and Barnett Harris after the Hens’ win on Thursday night. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Hens’ current three straight victories have come by a total margin of just four points. All three have featured big last-second shots, two from Daly and one from sophomore Darian Bryant.

Clearly, Delaware’s players are starting to believe in themselves. Thursday’s win avenged a 16-point loss to the Dragons (3-12 CAA, 9-19) earlier this season.

“I think the taste of winning is really getting to this group,” said junior guard Anthony Mosley, who scored 12 points. “It’s starting to pay off. We’re getting better as a team from the beginning of the year.”

“We’re playing our best basketball at the right time,” said first-year coach Martin Ingelsby. “We’re growing together. We didn’t play very well against Drexel last time. We’re a lot better basketball team today than we were a month ago.”

Darian Bryant, who had 15 points, looks to get to the basket in Thursday night’s game. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Hens held the lead for 25 minutes of Thursday’s contest. But in a tightly-played game that featured 12 lead changes and six ties, Delaware looked like it might have let one slip away in the closing minutes.

Drexel buried back-to-back threes, the last one with just 29.8 seconds on the clock, to wipe out a four-point deficit and grab a 67-65 advantage. The Hens called timeout with 25.9 seconds remaining to set up a play.

Since Delaware trailed by only two, the play wasn’t necessarily designed for Daly (24 points) to take a three. The 6-foot-3 Daly had a bigger — but slower defender — on him so he stepped back to create just enough separation.

“I was kind of feeling it so I decided to take it,” said Daly. “That was a hard shot, I’m not going to lie. I was thankful that went in because that was one of the harder shots I’ve taken since I’ve been here.”

“Ryan’s been hitting some pretty big shots lately,” said Mosley. “Going back to the locker room, I told him he’s got some (former NBA player) Robert Horry in him.”

The Hens’ Anthony Mosley, who scored 12 points, drives to the basket against Drexel. ( (UD sports information/Mark Campbell))

“I wanted him to get all the way to the basket to try to get to the foul line,” said Ingelsby. “He’s just a gamer. He makes big plays — he makes winning plays.”

But just as big as Daly’s shot was the defense that Delaware played after it.

Drexel didn’t call timeout, letting guard Kurk Lee bring up the ball and try to create something. But Mosley locked in on Lee, who netted a team-high 21 points.

Lee tried a few times to get past Mosley before forcing up an off-balance jumper that missed the rim just before the final buzzer sounded.

“I knew it was going to come back to Kurk Lee, I knew it was going to be me who was going to have to get the stop,” said Mosley. “I really just tried to dig in and do whatever I could to disrupt him.

“You’ve just got to play the best defense you can play. You’ve got to give it your all because there’s nothing left after that.”

With three games left in the regular season, the Hens are actually starting to think about climbing up in the CAA standings a little bit.

While it’s still very unlikely that Delaware could work itself out of the bottom four spots (and a date in the conference tourney’s opening round), the Hens are now tied with Hofstra for eighth place, one game behind James Madison.

That’s better than last place in the 10-team league — a spot Delaware has been in too many times over the last three seasons.

“I’m happy for our team,” said Daly. “That’s a lot resiliency — three in a row after starting 0-6 (in the CAA). I’m proud of our guys. We’re going to keep this train going hopefully.”

Extra points

Bryant added 15 points to give Delaware three players in double figures. … Daly had 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. … Mosley, the former Dover resident, added seven assists and three steals. … The Hens are now 9-4 at home this season. … Delaware forced Drexel into 20 turnovers while committing only nine itself. … The Hens host William & Mary on Saturday at 7 p.m. in their home finale.

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