Hens nearly erase 22-point deficit but fall to Terps 73-67 in opener; Carter scores 29

Delaware senior Eric Carter netted a career high 29 points against the Terrapins on Tuesday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — For much of the night, everything was the way it was supposed to be.

Delaware hung with mighty Maryland early, but then the Terrapins pulled away to as much as a 22-point lead on Tuesday night.

But that’s when the Blue Hens decided to flip the script just a little bit.

Behind a career night from senior center Eric Carter, Delaware kept chipping away at Maryland’s lead.

Suddenly, when Jacob Cushing buried a three-pointer with 1:29 still left, everybody in the Xfinity Center looked up to see the Hens trailing by a mere three points.

Like most Cinderella stories, though, that’s where it reverts to form. Maryland did what it had to down the stretch to claim a 73-67 victory over Delaware on the opening night of the men’s basketball season.

Just don’t try telling the Hens they didn’t have a chance to pull off the upset.

Blue Hen freshman guard Ithiel Horton goes up for a dunk in Tuesday’s season-opener at Maryland. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

“Actually I like moments like that because it kind of tests our pride,” freshman guard Ithiel Horton said about being down double digits. “If we’re up 20, you can’t gauge off that. But we were down 20, we came back and we almost won against a good Big 10 team.

“Our guys showed a lot of fight. I like that.”

“We didn’t come down here just to play them,” said Carter, who finished with a career-high 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the floor. “We came down here to beat them. You know, basketball is a game of runs.

“With 30 seconds left, we thought we were winning the game — which is what matters. These are the situations we want to be in.”

Delaware trailed just 71-67 and had the ball with 26 seconds left. But Jacob Cushing’s drive to the basket was blocked and the Terps got the rebound.

Anthony Cowan’s two free throws with 13.3 seconds on the clock more or less sealed the win for Maryland.

The Hens ended up missing their final four shots from the floor.

Ryan Johnson, a first-year transfer from Mercer, looks to drive to the basket against Maryland. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

Still, the ending was a far cry from the final eight minutes of the first half. After a jumper from Horton (10 points) got Delaware within 23-22, Maryland answered with a 21-5 run to open up a 44-27 halftime advantage.

That lead grew to as much as 58-36 in the first six minutes of the second half.

The Hens, though, kept battling. They whittled Maryland’s advantage down to 63-58 on a Darian Bryant drive with 5:42 left as Delaware’s bench jumped to its feet.

The Terps pushed their lead back to 67-58 before the Hens got it back to 70-67 on Cushing’s three. The junior sank 3-of-4 three-pointers in the second half to help spark the rally.

“I told our guys after the game, I thought we got better from the first half to the second half,” said third-year coach Martin Ingelsby. “We should feel very confident heading up 95.

“Obviously we’re not into moral victories. But for us to come down here and do what we did on the big stage — be down 22 points and battle back and get it to a one-possession game — says a lot about our group.”

Clearly the star of the night — for either team — was Carter.

Not only did the 6-foot-8 senior only miss two of his 14 shots but he sank the first three-pointer of his career and added nine rebounds, two blocks and a pair of steals. Carter’s previous career high was 23 points.

“He was amazing, amazing,” said Horton. “He carried us. We expect more out of him this season and we’re going to be leaning towards him.”

“We rode Eric Carter,” said Ingelsby. “He played fabulous. You want to just give it to him and get out of the way.”

“I’m always a confident guy,” said Carter. “But I worked my tail off all off-season, day-in and day-out, two-a-days in the summer. … I think I displayed some of my hard work.”

With a relatively young, inexperienced team competing so well on opening night, the Hens are anxious to see where they go from here.

It’s never as simple as that, of course, and Ingelsby knows there will be some growing pains. Still, it was difficult for him not to be intrigued by the potential.

“For us to do this on a big stage without (injured) Ryan Allen, to be right there, hopefully this gives us a boost of confidence,” said Ingelsby. “We’re learning a lot about our team. It’s fun. It’s a great group to coach. I think the energy and the vibe around the team is as good as I’ve seen.”

Extra points

Delaware led only once, at 20-19, on a putback from Colin Goss. The contest was also tied at 5-5 when Mercer transfer Ryan Johnson sank a three-pointer. … Maryland had three players finish in double figures: Jalen Smith (19 points, 13 rebounds), Cowan (15 points) and Bruno Fernando (15 points). … The Terps were just 2-of-19 from three-point range. … In hihs first game back from season-ending surgery, sophomore Kevin Anderson had only six points on 2-of-13 shooting but had seven rebounds and four assists. … Delaware returns to action on Saturday with a 6 p.m. game at Saint Peter’s.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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