Delaware men come up short against William & Mary

Coach Martin Inglesby and the Hens have lost seven of their last 10 games. Delaware Sports Information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — All things considered, it was something of a strange play.

Delaware trailed William & Mary by seven with just over a minute left when Kevin Anderson lofted an alley-oop pass for Jacob Cushing.

But the reserve senior forward slammed it home to bring the Carpenter Center to life.

And when the Blue Hens came up with a steal a moment later, suddenly Cushing was putting up a three-pointer that would have gotten Delaware within just two.

The shot, though, missed and the moment passed.

Four free throws later, William & Mary was walking off the court with a 77-68 win over the Hens on Thursday night that kept the Tribe unbeaten in the CAA and Delaware’s players wondering what they had to do to get out of their slump.

“I like that we fought, we didn’t give up,” said junior guard Ryan Allen. “We didn’t roll over and let them just basically spank us. We fought all the way to the end and continued to play.

“No matter what the outcome is, as long as my teammates give all they’ve got, that’s all you can ask for.”

It’s been a difficult few weeks for Delaware (2-4 CAA, 12-7 overall), which has now lost seven of its last 10 games. The slide has left the Hens among the bottom four teams in the 10-team CAA standings.

Maybe the Tribe (6-0 CAA, 14-5) weren’t the right team for Delaware to try to get back on track against, though.

Led by perhaps the league’s best player, 6-foot-10, 253-pound Nathan Knight, William & Mary kept the Hens at arm’s length much of the evening. While the Tribe never led by more than 11 points they also never trailed over the final 30 minutes.

Knight finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, drawing seven fouls and going 11-of-12 from the foul line. He also requires so much defensive attention that he frees up the Tribe’s outside shooters.

William & Mary, which has won six straight games, went 9-for-24 from three-point range — including two from Knight. There were a few NBA scouts at Thursday’s contest to watch the big man.

“I think it starts with Nathan Knight,” said UD coach Martin Ingelsby. “His size and presence on the offensive end — and his skill set … he’s a difficult matchup for us. We tried a little bit of everything to slow down and neutralize him.”

Anderson was one of the reasons that Delaware was able to hang around to the end. The junior guard finished with a game-high 25 points, going 5-for-8 from three-point range, including a buzzer-beating three that kept the Hens within 39-33 at halftime.

Delaware then closed within just 39-38 when Allen (17 points) swished a three-pointer less than two minutes into the second half.

The Hens, however, never pulled even. They had to settle for closing within 66-62 on another Allen three with 5:24 left and within 73-68 on Cushing’s dunk with one minute remaining.

But rather than feeling like they were a shot or two away from putting some real pressure on the Tribe, Delaware’s players thought it was their defense that let them down in the end.    

“It’s tough to come back against any team,” said Anderson. “But William & Mary, they’re a good team. They’re really well coached. They made timely shots when they needed them.

“I felt like we played well. But we had a couple defensive lapses and let up a lot of defensive rebounds.”

Delaware has to turn around and host Elon on Saturday at 2 p.m. It’s another chance for the Hens to get things turned around.

Right now, Ingelsby knows it feels like there’s more questions than answers.

“We’re struggling a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got to try to figure this out and try to fix this. I’ve got to try to get this group a little more confident.

“We’re in a little bit of a rut right now. Teams go through it. We’ve lost a couple in a row and we’ve got to play better.”

Free throws

Nate Darling added 13 points to give Delaware three players in double figures. …. William & Mary was 20-of-23 from the foul line compared to 7-for-11 shooting for the Hens. … With Delaware’s spirit teams out of town competing in nationals, Cape Henlopen High’s cheerleaders filled in for them at Thursday’s game.