Hens blow 18-point lead, fall to Towson 64-63

Delaware’s Darian Bryant goes after a ball in Saturday night’s loss to Towson. Delaware sports information/Jordan Burgess

NEWARK — They’ve done this kind of thing before, of course.

It was only last February that Delaware set an NCAA record by squandering a 34-point lead at Drexel.

Compared to that collapse, what the Blue Hens did against Towson on Saturday night wasn’t nearly as bad — it only felt like it.

After breezing out to as much as an 18-point first-half lead against one of the CAA’s worst teams, Delaware somehow found itself walking off the Carpenter Center court after falling to the Tigers, 64-63, in a CAA men’s basketball stunner.

The cruelest part may have been the ending.

The Hens (5-3 CAA, 13-8 overall) still had a chance to pull out the victory with 1.1 seconds left when Ryan Allen went to the foul line to shoot a pair of free throws. But the standout guard missed them both and Towson grabbed the rebound and the victory.

“We had a dynamite first half,” said senior guard Darian Bryant, who scored 13 points. “You couldn’t ask for a better first half from all of us. In the second half, we came out lackadaisical and they jumped on us early.

“They just kept hitting us with everything. We weren’t able to control their runs and we kind of got away from ourselves offensively. We weren’t really together coming down the stretch. That’s a tough one to swallow.

The Hens’ Ryan Allen, who netted 13 points, gets off a shot in Saturday’s game. Delaware sports information/Jordan Burgess

“We were up 15 at halftime and our mindset was to stay on their neck and put them away. We couldn’t do that tonight.”

With Delaware up 37-22 at halftime, the fact that Towson (2-5 CAA, 6-14 overall) had won the last six meetings seemed irrelevant.

But the Tigers, who snapped a six-game losing streak, quickly made it a more competitive game by scoring the first seven points of the second half. Towson finally tied the game at 50-50 with 8:26 remaining before taking its first lead since the opening minute at 54-53 with 6:36 on the clock.

Delaware ran off six straight points, though, going up 59-54 on a one-handed dunk from Eric Carter (14 points) with 4:52 remaining. Again, though, it wasn’t enough.

Finally, with Towson trailing by one, Tiger big man Alex Thomas grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed free throw. Following a timeout, Thomas buried a jumper from the corner with 23.6 seconds left to give Towson the lead for good.

Delaware’s Kevin Anderson looks to drive past a Towson defender. Delaware sports information/Jordan Burgess

Delaware didn’t call a timeout but brought the ball upcourt to set up a final shot. Allen (13 points) missed an outside shot but followed it up, grabbed the loose ball in the lane and was fouled in a scramble under the basket.

Allen was 6-of-8 on free throws when he went to the line. After he missed the first one, Towson called timeout.

He then missed the second to seal Delaware’s fate.

“I’ll take it any night, any day of the week — Ryan Allen on the foul line with two shots to win the game,” said Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby. “It was tough luck. I told him to keep his head up. I know he’s hurting in there. I told our group to really be there for him, to be supportive.

“He’s going to get opportunities throughout the rest of the year to make big free throws for us. He’s got to learn from it and be better.”

All told, Towson out-scored Delaware, 42-26, in the second half. After going 5-for-10 from three-point range in the first half, the Hens were only 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in the second half.

The Tigers, on the other hand, shot a blistering 69.2 percent (18-of-26) after intermission. That included 3-for-5 shooting from three-point range.

For a Delaware program that looked like it was ready to turn the corner in the CAA, Saturday night’s loss was a reminder that winning isn’t always as easy as it sometimes looks.

“We’ve got to dig in and fight,” said Ingelsby. “We didn’t have enough of that fight on the defensive end. That’s an area we’ve got to get better at.

“We’ve got to get better when we have a lead, to sustain a lead and keep a lead. Sometimes you need some shots to go in as well. We only scored 26 points in the second half. That’s hard in a college basketball game.”

Free throws

Polytech High grad Juwan Gray is on Towson’s roster. But he’s sitting out this season after transferring from San Diego. … The Hens could have matched last season’s totals for overall wins and CAA wins with a victory. … Delaware doesn’t play again until next Saturday when it hosts Drexel at 2 p.m.

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