Larkin’s putback lifts Hornets by Hens 73-71

Delaware’s Eric Carter, who collected 23 points and 15 rebounds, tries to get off a shot against the Hornets on Wednesday night. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — Kevin Larkin likes to go after offensive rebounds.

So when his Delaware State teammate, Pinky Wiley, put up the shot, Larkin went to the basket.

Wiley’s shot was off target but the basketball bounced right to Larkin, who simply had to lay it in the hoop.

That his putback came with just 3.4 seconds left and gave the Hornets a dramatic 73-71 win over rival Delaware on Wednesday night was a dream come true for the Sussex Tech High grad.

Larkin, who transferred from Niagra in the off-season, said he always wanted to go to Delaware. This was his one chance to play in the Carpenter Center.

“I just wanted to play until the buzzer sounded,” said Larkin, who finished with a team-high 22 points and 13 rebounds. “It (the shot) came off right in my bread basket and I got the layup.

“It’s an unreal feeling. I wanted to play for the University of Delaware since maybe my sophomore or junior year of high school. It means everything. Seeing my family so happy for me because they honestly know that I wanted to be here … this is something I’m going to tell my kids in 20 years.”

The first win over a Division I team this season for DelState (3-8) and first-year coach Eric Skeeters came after a dramatic finish.

In a contest in which the underdog Hornets led for 29:19, the Blue Hens (8-5) tied it at 71-71 when freshman Ithiel Horton buried a three-pointer from the corner with 16.6 seconds on the clock.

Blue Hen guard Kevin Anderson tries to drive against Delaware State at the Carpenter Center on Wednesday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

The Hornets called timeout with 12.2 seconds remaining to set up the final play. After Larkin’s basket put DSU in front, Delaware had to hustle the ball back upcourt with a Horton running three-pointer bouncing harmlessly off the rim at the final buzzer.

The hard-earned victory was just the fifth for the Hornets in the 19-game all-time series and snapped the Hens’ three-game winning streak in the rivalry.

“Merry Christmas,” Skeeters said with a smile. “They’re all hard-fought, every one of them. Every Division I win is hard-fought.
“We wanted to play a good second half. That was the goal. … We did that. And now we had to finish.”

DelState took the lead for good with a scoring burst from an unexpected source. Freshman Ronald Lucas, who hadn’t scored a point in the Hornets’ last three games, netted eight straight points to give DSU a 36-31 lead with 1:49 remaining in the first half.

Lucas hadn’t hit a three-pointer this season, but he sank two threes in his personal 8-0 run, banking in the last one.

DelState just kept hitting big shots in the second half. Besides Larkin, senior Saleik Edwards added 18 points, including four three-pointers.

“We’re been working our butts off in practice, getting better every day,” said Edwards. “This feeling right here, it’s amazing. I can’t even explain the words.

“The one thing about us is we’re confident every game, because we know what we can do. That’s what we talked about — let’s go hard for 40 minutes and play like it’s our last game. That’s what we did.”

Delaware got a game-high 23 points and 15 rebounds from senior center Eric Carter. But the CAA’s best three-point shooting team hit only 6-of-30 from beyond the arc on Wednesday compared to 13-of-27 three-point shooting for the Hornets.

Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby said DelState simply wanted the victory more.

“Give them all the credit in the world,” he said about the Hornets. “They were fabulous. They made big shot after big shot.

“But, on our home floor, we’ve got to be better defensively. … I don’t think our second effort was there on the defensive end. We allowed them to get confident and you can’t do that. We held them to 73 points but it feels like they made every big one (shot).”

Considering this was the Hens’ last non-conference game of the season, it was something of a disturbing loss for Delaware. The Hens open their CAA schedule on Dec. 28 at Hofstra before playing at Northeastern two days later.

“We’ve got to be able to learn from this,” said Ingelsby. “This one stings and it has to sting. I hope this hurts and guys go into Christmas break hungry to get back to practice to get better.”

For the Hornets, on the other hand, Wednesday’s victory was a reason to believe in what has been a tough season so far.

It doesn’t get any easier for DelState, which goes to Utah on Saturday for a game with Weber State. According to one computer ranking, the Hornets are still ranked last out of the 353 Division I teams in the country.

But none of that mattered on Wednesday night.

“A lot of teams look down on us because of our record or what we might be ranked in the nation,” said Larkin. “We just had to come out here and play hard. It showed.”

Free throws

A ninth non-conference win would have been the most for the Hens since the 1992-93 season. … Matt Veretto (13 points) and Kevin Anderson (11) also scored in double figures for the Hens. … Montrell Horsey and Jonathan Mitchell made their first starts this season for DSU.

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