Local college sports notebook: Hornets eye turnaround in Fla. after heartbreaking loss

Delaware State head coach Eric Skeeters rallies with his team.

DOVER — Eric Skeeters experienced the first gut-punch of his head coaching career on Monday night.

After Pinky Wiley’s go-ahead three with six seconds left, Skeeters was envisioning a celebration on the Memorial Hall floor.
It was not to be.

The Hornets surrendered a buzzer-beating layup by North Carolina Central’s Jordan Perkins and lost 71-70. The heartbreaking loss dropped the Hornets to 0-4 in Mid-Eastern Athletic and 3-14 overall.

Skeeters, the first-year DSU coach, experienced quite the range of emotions in the final seconds.

“The same thing that makes you laugh can also make you cry,” he said.

Delaware State will look to rebound from the tough loss when it takes its MEAC Florida road trip this weekend. The Hornets play at Bethune-Cookman today (4 p.m.) and at Florida A&M on Monday (8 p.m.).

Delaware State has lost six games in a row since it stunned Delaware on Dec. 19 with a late go-ahead basket by Kevin Larkin.

Skeeters said based on Monday’s performance, the Hornets are starting to play themselves out of their recent rough patch.

He liked the effort a lot better than what DelState delivered on Saturday against North Carolina A&T. Against the Aggies, the Hornets allowed a 15-2 run at the end of the first half and never closed within double-digits in the second half.

The North Carolina Central game looked to be headed in the same direction after the Eagles went up by 11 early in the second half. This time, though. Delaware State responded with a 12-2 run and took the lead.

“We were focused and wanted to compete,” Skeeters said. “We weren’t the last time. That was a big step for us. I saw some big growth.”

Hornet women not giving up

Certainly, the Delaware State women have been dealt some bad hands this season.

The Hornets only had seven players healthy for their most recent conference games.

But that didn’t stop them from earning their first win over a Division I team on Monday. Delaware State ended an eight-game winless streak with a 71-61 victory over North Carolina Central.

The shorthanded Hornets were able to give first-year coach David Caputo his first MEAC win behind the strength of NaJai Pollard’s 31 points.

“They’re not quiting,” Caputo said. “They’re getting coached hard and they have the thick skin to handle it. We’re fighting through adversity. We have seven active players right now, sometimes eight. We got three freshmen in there, some walk-ons and our kids keep fighting.”

“Every game we’re undermanned and undersized,” Caputo added. “Yeah we’ve had some growing pains but I’m proud of my kids. They’re really trying through the adversity. Just to be here and have our heads above water, I’m happy for them.”

Prior to the North Carolina Central game, the Hornets had only beaten Post and Cheyney, both non-Division I teams.

The Hornets play Bethune-Cookman today at 2 p.m. before a 6 p.m. Monday contest at Florida A&M.

Hens have point to prove

Delaware’s men (5-2 CAA, 13-7 overall) certainly face a winnable game tonight when they host Towson (1-5 CAA, 5-14 overall) at 7 p.m.

But the Hens should know better than to look past the Tigers. Towson has won the last six meetings with Delaware, including the last three in Newark.

And Delaware only has to look at its 73-71 loss to Delaware State on Dec. 19 to see what can happen if it doesn’t bring its ‘A’ game.
The Hens also have an open week before hosting Drexel on Jan. 26. They don’t want to start vacation too early.

“I think the break comes at a really good time for us,” said Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby. “If we take care of business on Saturday, we get a nice couple days to get some rest and recharge the batteries.”

Notes

• Polytech High product Devaughn Mallory has started all 17 games for Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The Delaware State transfer is the second-leading scorer on the team with 15.8 points per game.

• Freshman D’Marco Baucum has become eligible to play in the second semester for the Delaware State men. Baucum has played in the last three games for the Hornets, including starting the past two. He is averaging five points a game so far.

• To say that Ryan Allen and Eric Carter carried the scoring load for Delaware in the Blue Hens’ 76-69 win over James Madison would be an understatement. Not only did the pair net 55 of UD’s total points, they combined for 27 of the Hens’ 35 second-half points.

• Wesley College’s Brian Cameron is sixth nationally in Division III in scoring at 25.5 points per game. And, as a team, the Wolverines are averaging 84.4 points.

Wesley (7-10) just wishes all that scoring added up to more victories. The Wolverines take a three-game losing streak into today’s 2 p.m. home game against Marymount (8-9).

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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