Delaware State upsets Savannah State in MEAC first round

NORFOLK, Va. — Delaware State played like anything but the lowest seed in the MEAC Men’s Basketball Tournament on Monday evening.

Turning in perhaps its grittiest performance of the season, the No. 11 Hornets downed No. 6 Savannah State, 71-67, in an opening-round tourney game at the Scope Arena.

The Hornets snapped a four-game MEAC Tournament losing streak and avenged a 76-73 regular-season loss to Savannah State to advance to the tournament quarterfinals against No. 3 seed and defending champ North Carolina Central. That contest will be played on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Delaware State led by as many as 17 in the second half before holding off a late Savannah State rally to reach the tournament’s round of eight for the first time since 2015.

Kevin Larkin (Sussex Tech) led four double-figure scorers for the Hornets with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including two three-pointers on four attempts. Larkin also led the Hornets with nine rebounds.

“I didn’t want this to be my last college game,” said Larkin, a graduate student playing his final year of eligibility after previous stops at Cheyney and Niagara. “I knew we had a chance to win if we played hard and followed the game plan. It feels good to get a post-season win.”

Fellow senior Saleik Edwards added 17 points, highlighted by five three-point field goals (5-of-12).

“It’s been a tough year, but you get another chance in the post-season and we were able to take advantage,” said Edwards.

Freshman D’Marco Baucum contributed 12 points and seven rebounds, while senior Jonathan Mitchell (sr.) came off the bench add 10, five rebounds and three steals.

After leading 31-25 at halftime, Delaware State used an early second-half spurt to open up the biggest advantage of the game. Larkin capped off a 15-1 run with a three-pointer to stretch the Hornets’ lead to 48-31 at the 13:25 mark of the second half.

After the Tigers pulled to within 61-55 on a three-pointer by Romani Hansen, the Hornets ran off the next five points, and opened up a 66-55 lead on a basket and free throw by Baucum with 3:22 left.

Delaware State missed five free throws over the next three minutes, allowing Savannah State to claw back into the contest.

The Tigers pulled to within 69-67 on a layup by Zach Sellers off a DSU turnover with 15 seconds left. But Mitchell knocked down two at the line with eight seconds remaining to seal the win for the Hornets.

“Welcome to March basketball,” said Delaware State first-year head coach Eric Skeeters. “We could have closed out the game a little stronger. But we played extremely hard, especially on defense, and made some clutch shots to pull out the win. We’re still laying a new foundation here at Delaware State this was a character win for our program. ”

Free throws

North Carolina Central swept two games vs. Delaware State during the 2018-19 regular season, winning 71-70 on a last-second shot on Jan. 14 in Dover and 87-52 on Feb. 11 in Durham, N.C. … The Hornets won the last MEAC Tournament meeting between the teams 63-57 in 2015 and hold a 2-1 lead in tournament contests … DSU led for nearly 38 of the 40 minutes in the game.

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