Hens let lead slip away, fall to Charleston 80-71

The Hens’ Justyn Mutts posted his 10th double-double of the season on Thursday night. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

CHARLESTON, S.C. — For much of the night, it looked like Delaware’s men’s basketball team might finally beat Charleston for the first time in four years.

But somebody forgot to tell the Cougars.

The Blue Hens’ 10-point lead with 6:31 left seemed to vanish in an instant and suddenly hot-shooting Charleston was walking off the floor with an 80-71 CAA victory over Delaware.

The win was the ninth in a row for the Cougars (10-7 CAA, 16-13 overall) over the Hens (10-7 CAA, 20-10 overall). Charleston remains the only CAA team that Delaware has not beaten during fourth-year coach Martin Ingelsby’s tenure.

The Hens had a chance to wrap up the third seed in the upcoming CAA tournament. Instead, they’re now in fifth place going into Saturday night’s regular-season finale at UNCW.

“We played really well for the first 32 minutes, but it got away from us,” said Ingelsby. “Charleston made big shots and hit a lot of threes. We needed to dig in and get a stop but couldn’t do it.

“Credit to them; we did a good job on (Grant) Riller and made him work, but their complementary guys stepped up. We need to be more poised when other teams make a run.”

Charleston buried six consecutive three-point attempts to erase Delaware’s late 10-point lead.

The Hens led 59-49 with 6:31 remaining following two free throws by Nate Darling, but Charleston responded with a 22-4 run to take control.

The spurt began with a pair of three-pointers but Justyn Mutts answered with a jump hook, while two more Darling foul shots put Delaware up 63-58 with 4:18 on the clock.

However, the Cougars scored the next 13 points to take a 71-63 advantage with 1:10 left, and then hit nine of 10 free throws from there to put the game away.

Mutts posted his 10th double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Darling also scored 18 points. Ryan Allen finished with 12 points, all in the second half, while Kevin Anderson was the fourth Hen in double figures with 11 points.

Grant Riller led Charleston with 24 points while Brevin Galloway added 19, all coming in the second half.

The first half was a tight affair that featured seven lead changes, and neither team led by more than five points. Anderson hit a three-pointer to put Delaware back in front with 2:22 on the clock.

After two Riller free throws, Mutts connected on a pair from the line to give the Hens a 31-28 advantage at halftime.

The Cougars scored the first basket of the second half to pull within a point but Delaware answered with a nine-point run, taking a 40-30 lead on two Dylan Painter free throws with 17:16 left.