Hens survive home opener as Hayes’ free throw nips FDU

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Marvin King-Davis lays in two of his 14 points against FDU. The senior also had 10 rebounds. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Even after missing the first two free throws, Cazmon Hayes swears he wasn’t nervous.

Of course, the Delaware junior guard couldn’t speak for anyone else in the Carpenter Center.

Certainly, some of them thought Hayes might just miss all three foul shots.

But Hayes finally delivered, sinking the last free throw with just 0.9 seconds on the clock to give Delaware a somewhat dubious 73-72 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson in its men’s basketball home season opener on Tuesday night.

“I thought I was going to make all three,” said Hayes, who was just 3-of-10 from the floor and 2-5 from the foul line. “I’m confident when I shoot my free throws — when I take any shot. I don’t know, it didn’t fall.

“I knew on that last one, I had to make it. There was no other option.”

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Sophomore guard Kory Holden finished with a game-high 21 points on Tuesday, sinking five three-pointers. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Hens (2-1) will take the win, of course. Remember, this is basically the same squad that started last year 0-10.

After leading by as many as eight points, Delaware needed Hayes’ heroics after the Knights (1-4) tied the game at 72-72 on a pair of foul shots with 9.4 seconds on the clock.

Guard Kory Holden brought the ball down court, got it to Chivarsky Corbett and he found Hayes in the corner for a three-pointer. Hayes was then fouled as he put up the shot.

After Hayes sank the free throw that put the Hens ahead, FDU completed a long pass and got off a contested jumper that hit the backboard. It was believed that the shot wouldn’t have counted.

Clearly, the way Delaware played didn’t sit well with coach Monte’ Ross. The most glaring stat was the Hens’ 17-for-34 free-throw shooting.

“What we did tonight was win — and that’s all we did,” said Ross.

The veteran coach was annoyed enough by his team’s performance that, after originally giving them the day off on Wednesday, he now decided the Hens would be practicing.

“We’ve got to be better,” said Ross, whose team plays at Temple on Sunday. “And we will get better. … Our turnovers (12) and free throws, that’s just unacceptable. We will get better tomorrow.

“No one shoots more free throws than we do in the country,” he continued. “We shoot 100 free throws, each guy, after practice. We spend 30 minutes, specifically, so this does not happen. Gosh, we were fortunate we made the one to win the game, ironically.”

Delaware was 38-for-49 from the foul line in its first two games. Ross said it comes down to concentration.

“I don’t know if maybe we had half a foot out the door to Thanksgiving,” he said. “I’m not sure if that was it. But we’ll get both feet back in the door tomorrow just to make sure.”

“There’s no reason for us to be missing free throws,” said Holden.

Holden helped bail out the Hens with some impressive outside shooting. The sophomore guard sank 5-of-8 three-pointers to finish with a team-high 21 points.

After FDU rallied to take a 45-44 lead early in the second half, Holden drilled back-to-back threes to quickly give Delaware back a five-point advantage.

After netting a total of just 19 points in the Hens’ first two games, Ross was glad to see Holden break out a little bit. The Salisbury, Md. native, who had a big freshman season, had been getting double-teamed a lot.

Also for the Hens, senior Marvin King-Davis added 14 points and 10 rebounds while Mo Jeffers had 11 points and nine rebounds.

“I just play within the game,” said Holden, who had a game-high six assists. “If I see somebody open, I’ll give up my shot for them, obviously. It was just one of those days where, I guess, I was just feeling good and hitting. I was kind of due for one.”

“I thought he was feeling a little sorry for himself, which I didn’t appreciate,” said Ross. “But he bounced back in a strong way tonight. He played tonight the way he’s been practicing.”

Free throws

Sophomore Devonne Pinkard left the game in the first half with a foot injury. Ross said he won’t know until x-rays are taken whether it’s broken or sprained. … Delaware outrebounded the Knights, 48-33. … The Hens are 16-8 in home openers in the Carpenter Center. … Holden now has five 20-point games in his career. … Delaware had been 0-2 all-time against FDU. … After playing at Temple on Sunday, Delaware hosts Bradley on Dec. 1 and then South Florida on Dec. 3. The Hens aren’t home after that until Jan. 2.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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