Hens rally to top Elon 81-75 for 7th straight win

Ryan Allen was one of three Delaware players to score 13 points in Thursday’s win. Elon sports information photo

ELON, N.C. — The final score makes it look like it wasn’t a nail-biter.

But Delaware’s latest victory was every bit as dramatic as the others have been lately.

The Blue Hens rallied to score the final nine points of the contest to pull out an 81-75 victory over Elon in CAA men’s basketball on Thursday evening.

Nate Darling

Delaware (9-4 CAA, 19-7 overall) didn’t take the lead until Nate Darling buried a three-pointer with just 20 seconds left and the Hens came up with a pair of steals in the closing 16 seconds to seal their seventh-straight victory. Delaware was 0-5 all-time at Elon before Thursday.

The victory also moves the Hens into second place in the Colonial Athletic Association standings. Delaware trails only first-place Hofstra (10-3 CAA) and is a half game in front of third-place Hofstra and William & Mary, which are both 9-5.

“There’s such great belief and spirit about these guys right now,” said coach Martin Ingelsby. “We’ve got to keep it bottled up and keep riding the wave.

“You have a group that really believes in each other. They’ve been in these situations. They’ve stayed poised through some runs (by the opposition) that maybe some groups would have not stayed together.”

After leading by as many as 11 points in the first half and nine in the second, Delaware trailed the Phoenix (5-9 CAA, 9-18) by a 75-72 margin with just over a minute left. The Hens were still down 75-74 when Darling sank his clutch three-pointer with 20 seconds on the clock.

Darling, who hit a shot with five seconds left to beat James Madison on Saturday finished with 24 points. The three-pointer was the only one Delaware made in the second half after sinking eight in the first half.

“I just turned around and said, I’m going to get this rebound if he misses,” junior center Dylan Painter said about Darling’s shot. “It went in and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ That kid is special.”

Elon still had a chance to answer Darling’s three-pointer. But freshman Johnny McCoy came up with a steal, was fouled and hit one of two free throws to give the Hens a 78-75 lead.

On the next possession it was Kevin Anderson who made the steal, was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Finally, Ryan Allen sank a pair of free throws with three seconds left to cap off the win.

Delaware hit its final four field-goal attempts of the contest. Elon was scoreless over the final 1:20 of the game.

Allen, Anderson and Painter all finished with 13 points for Delaware.

“It’s not just one guy,” said Ingelsby. “It’s different guys that have really stepped up for us at key times. … It shows you that it’s bigger than one person, it’s bigger than two guys.

“These guys are selfless on the offensive end. They want to do whatever it takes to help this team win. It’s been fun to watch. It’s been fun to see that growth and guys cheering for each other.”

Delaware faces another big CAA game on Saturday at William & Mary at 4 p.m. The Tribe were the last team to beat the Hens, downing them 77-68 on Jan. 16 in Newark.

Free throws

Darling was 5-for-8 from three-point range, giving him 84 for the season. He’s just two shy of the school’s single-season record of 86 held by Allen and John Gordon. … Ingelsby is now 63-62 in his four seasons as Delaware. He hasn’t been over .500 since the Hens were 7-6 in his first season. … Elon still leads the all-time series, 8-6.