Pride clinch share of CAA title with 78-62 win over Hens

The Hens’ Nate Darling tries to get off a shot against Hofstra’s Eli Pemberton on Saturday. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — A month ago, Delaware went to Long Island and knocked off Hofstra on its home court.

The Pride, apparently, hadn’t forgotten.

Locked in a tight game with the Blue Hens five minutes into the second half, Hofstra cranked up its engine and ran away to a 78-62 victory over Delaware in a CAA men’s basketball showdown at the Carpenter Center on Saturday afternoon.

The Hens’ largest home crowd of the season — 4,772 — looked on as the preseason favorite Pride (13-3 CAA, 22-7 overall) clinched at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title.

“It’s tough to sweep the best team in the league,” said Delaware junior guard Nate Darling. “They came down here on a mission and they kicked our butts.”

“Any time a team beats you, you go into your next battle against them with a different kind of mindset,” agreed sophomore forward Justyn Mutts. “You don’t want to get swept by a team. I’m pretty sure they came down here locked in on a mission, trying to get this one done.”

Coming out with a lot of energy before the big crowd, the Hens (10-6 CAA, 20-9 overall) netted the contest’s first eight points. Delaware trailed by one at halftime but then went back up 43-40 on a three-point play from senior center Collin Goss with 14:21 remaining.

Hofstra’s Desure Buie, though, answered with back-to-back three-pointers and the Pride never trailed again.

Hofstra’s advantage eventually grew to 17 points as the Pride seemed to hit every shot it took. In the final 14 minutes of the contest, the Pride sank 9-of-13 shots from the floor and 15 straight free throws to take command.

Buie (27 points, 9 assists) and fellow senior guard Eli Pemberton (25 points) put Hofstra in control.

Justyn Mutts looks to drive to the basket for Delaware against Hofstra. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

“Those guards have won a lot of games in our league,” said UD coach Martin Ingelsby. “They’re experienced. … That second half, just one or the other was going at us and we didn’t have an answer for them on the defensive end.

“They were ready for us today. We got off to a great start … but I thought, over 40 minutes, you saw that experience kind of win out. That’s something that we need to continue to learn and grow from.”

The Hens weren’t nearly as sharp offensively in the second half as they had been early.

Darling netted 25 points and Mutts added 14 points and 13 rebounds. But Delaware was only 5-of-24 from three-point range and got to the foul line just seven times.

The Hens were 7-for-7 on free throws compared to 20-of-23 for Hofstra.

“I think the whole time we were ready to make a run,” said Darling, who was only 3-of-12 from beyond the arc. “Every four-minute media (timeout) we were like, ‘Let’s go, let’s put it on.’ The ball wasn’t falling for me and our guards. They play a tough matchup zone. It’s tough to get good looks sometimes.”

The loss was just the second in the last nine games for Delaware. It pushes the Hens back into the middle of the pack with two regular-season games remaining.

Delaware plays at Charleston on Thursday night before closing the regular season at UNCW next Saturday.

The Hens said they won’t spend a lot of time dwelling on Saturday’s loss to Hofstra, though.

“That’s the fun part of being in the middle of basketball season,” said Mutts. “It’s such a quick turnaround. We play Thursday, we play Saturday, we’ve got a couple days rest, a couple days of practice to really lock in and then we’re going down to North Carolina.
“You can’t really get caught up in any loss or any ‘W’ because it’s so repetitive. They Charleston beat us last time so we’re on a mission.”

Free throws

Goss and Jacob Cushing, Delaware’s only two seniors, were honored before the game. Goss finished with nine points. … Including his two years at UAB, Darling went over 1,000 points for his college career. He’s also hit his last 38 foul shots. … Hofstra is 8-1 in CAA road games this season with 11 road wins overall — including a victory at UCLA in November.