Painter paces Hens past Hornets in debut

WILMINGTON — Dylan Painter has played in countless basketball games in his life.

But it had been a year since he played in a real one.

So, sure, the Villanova transfer had a little extra adrenaline flowing when he made his Delaware debut on Monday night.

But the 6-foot-10 Painter lived up to the anticipation for his arrival, netting a team-high 19 points as the Blue Hens topped Delaware State, 86-78, in their annual rivalry men’s basketball game before a crowd of 1,936 at the 76ers Fieldhouse.

For Delaware (10-2) the victory avenged a tough, two-point loss to the Hornets (1-10) a year ago in Newark.

Painter didn’t start, but he hit 8-of-11 shots from the floor — including three dunks.

“It seems like it’s been forever and I’m finally out there,” said Painter. “I was really anxious before the game. I was like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ I just went back to my roots — I’ve got to defend, rebound and play hard. When I do that, the game just comes to me.”

Painter’s big contribution came in handy on a night when the Hens weren’t quite themselves.

Point guard Kevin Anderson was battling the flu and played only 16 minutes after getting in foul trouble; Justyn Mutts (12 points) played just 20 minutes before fouling out; Nate Darling (16 points), who had just netted 29 points against No. 20 Villanova on Saturday, hit only 1-of-8 three-pointers; and Ryan Allen (14 points) had to sit out the final four minutes with a leg injury.

And with John Crosby pouring in a game-high 30 points, the Hornets were able to hang around. DSU never trailed by more than 14 points.

Delaware, which only trailed once, in the opening minute, finally iced the contest by sinking 11-of-14 free throws in the final three minutes. The Hens now lead the all-time series, 15-5.

“It’s going to happen some nights,” said Darling. “We’ve got a good bench. We found a way to get it done. We were a little tired, Kevin was a little sick, Justyn got in a little foul trouble, but no excuses. A win’s a win.

“We played horrible tonight,” added the junior guard. “We got a ‘W’ but it was scrappy, not fun to watch basketball. We’ve got to play a lot better if we want to achieve any of our goals.”

The Hens, who sometimes get no more than a few points from their bench, got a season-high 31 bench points on Monday, Of course, Painter had a lot to do with that.

The junior center has been practicing with Delaware since last January but wasn’t eligible to play until UD’s fall semester ended on Sunday. Besides his 19 points, Painter added three rebounds and a blocked shot.

“He’s a high-level, Big East transfer and I tip my hat to him,” said DSU coach Eric Skeeters. “He wanted to play Saturday, Coach was saying and he showed what he can do tonight. He’s a great addition to them. They’re going to be good. Look for them at the end of the year in the Colonial.”

“We were waiting for a while,” Darling said about Painter. “He got bigger, stronger, more athletic, dunking everything. He brings a whole different presence to our team.”

The Hens will gladly take the victory, of course. But they also know they have to be a lot sharper when they open the Colonial Athletic Association schedule by hosting UNCW on Dec. 28.

The addition of Painter, though, gives them something else to be excited about. With his Delaware debut out of the way, Painter hopes this is starting of something good.

“It seemed like forever,” he said about waiting to play again. “Now I’ve got this one under my belt now I’m ready to go.”

Free throws

All nine players who played for Delaware scored at least two points on Monday. … Senior Collin Goss added nine points and 10 rebounds. … There 44 fouls called in the game with the Hens going 23-of-32 from the free throw line. … Delaware is 7-4 against DSU since 2009 when the series resumed following a nine-year layoff.

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