Hens redeem themselves in regular-season ender

 

Delaware’s Darian Bryant defends JMU’s Matt Lewis in Saturday afternoon’s CAA game. (Delaware sports information/Jeff Fannon)

NEWARK — Delaware’s players had no idea the infamous record they’d just broken when they left the court on Thursday night.

They just knew that blowing a 34-lead against Drexel wasn’t good.`

But the more the news spread on social media, the more the Blue Hens realized that being on the wrong end of the biggest comeback in Division I men’s basketball history was national news.

“To be honest with you, it was a bad feeling,” said junior guard Darian Bryant. “I couldn’t even sleep that night. I saw it all over TV, all over Twitter. It was bad.”

Delaware, of course, also quickly realized that the best way to put that nightmarish night behind it was to get another victory.

That’s why the Hens all felt pretty relieved after out-dueling James Madison, 68-66, on Saturday afternoon at the Carpenter Center in their regular-season finale.

This time it was Delaware (6-12 CAA, 13-18 overall) that rallied, overcoming a six-point deficit with two minutes remaining by netting nine of the contest’s final 10 points before an appreciative crowd of 3,487.

“I told our group in the locker room, we’ve had an emotional couple days,” said coach Martin Ingelsby. “It was really hard, the bus ride back (from Philadelphia) on Thursday night. But our group continues to stay together and believe.

“It’s a great way to go out, being able to come back and get one of those, with everything that we had to deal with on Thursday night. I told our guys, we needed to change the narrative of Thursday night. And the only way you could do that was to come out here and — all that emotion that we felt on the way back Thursday night and Friday — be ready to compete today.”

The Hens’ Eric Carter, who 11 points and 11 rebounds, looks to put up a shot against the Dukes. (Delaware sports information/Jeff Bannon)

Trailing 65-63, the biggest shot of the comeback came when Bryant drilled a three-pointer with 48 seconds left. The clutch shot gave the Hens a 66-65 advantage.

It was a big moment for Bryant (13 points), who had just missed a key foul shot 50 seconds earlier. The crowd erupted when he made the three, staying on its feet for the rest of the game.

“It was great feeling to have the crowd as our backbone, always supporting us,” said Bryant. “Win, lose or draw, they’re always there for us. The energy in this place was amazing tonight.”

Delaware also got a pair of big free throws from Eric Carter (11 points, 11 rebounds) with 26.7 seconds left. That allowed the Hens to intentionally foul JMU’s Matt Lewis (23 points) with 2.1 seconds remaining rather let him attempt a three.

Lewis made one free throw to get the Dukes (5-12, 9-21) within 68-66 but a lane violation nullified his intentional miss on the second foul shot.

Carter did miss two free throws with 1.6 seconds left. JMU’s desperation heave from three-quarters court was off the mark at the buzzer, however.

The Hens switched from a zone to man-to-man defense with four minutes remaining. They outscored JMU, 11-3, after that.

“We won that with our defense,” said Ingelsby. “We challenged them to be men — ‘We’ve going to be men if we’re going to get out of here with one.’”

Offensively, Delaware had five players score in double figures. Ryan Daly had 14, Bryant had 13 while Anthony Mosley, Ryan Allen and Carter all had 11.

The contest featured 10 lead changes and six ties with the Hens leading for 28:48.

The hard-earned win came too late to save Delaware from a play-in game in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. The Hens will be seeded seventh, eighth or ninth and play on Saturday in the tourney’s opening round in Charleston, S.C.

Delaware, though, remains optimistic that it’s playing well, despite its record.

The Hens have only two seniors in Mosley and Skye Johnson, who were honored before their final home game. Mosley played at Dover’s Central Middle School as a youngster.

His sister, Mesha, flew in from California to surprise him before the game.

“It was so surreal,” said Mosley. “It was kind of emotional. I’m just so glad we got out of here with a win in my last game.

“Down the stretch I was just like, ‘We’re not letting this one go. We let one go the other day that was a huge lead so we’ve got to get this one back.’ We just focused at the end and got the win.

“I just told the guys, we’ve got to dig in and get a win,” he added. “We let one go the other day so we owe somebody.”

Extra points

With 13 wins, the Hens matched their win total for last season. … Delaware has won four straight games over JMU. … Daly has scored in double figures in 24 straight games while Allen has reached double digits in 15 in a row. … With the Dukes still having to play a makeup game at Elon on Monday, the pairings for the CAA tourney won’t be set until then.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

New Delaware College Football and High School Sports Report newsletters are now available.
Visit the newsletters page to subscribe to both!

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.