Strange end to DSU women’s season, but bright future ahead

DOVER — The Delaware State University women’s basketball team was locked in a tight battle, unaware what was happening outside of the arena.

The Hornets lost the game 64-63 — a quarterfinal clash against Morgan State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament on Thursday afternoon. The defeat ended the season for the Hornets.

When they returned to the locker room, they found out everyone else’s season was over too.

The NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s tournaments, plus all conference tournaments due to growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID 19).

The Delaware State-Morgan State game was the final game completed in all of college basketball this year. It was one of three women’s games to be fully played before the decision to cancel came down.

ESPN featured a nearly five-minute highlight package on the DSU-Morgan State contest on Thursday night’s edition of Sportscenter.

“That was pretty cool,” said second-year DSU coach Dave Caputo. “But it would have been cooler if we won.”

Caputo said the Hornets were able to block out the concerns of the impending postponement.

The only time he was worried was when a MEAC official visited the team with 20 minutes until tip. But that was to give word the game would go on.

“I thought we would finish the tournament and then the NCAA Tournament would probably be canceled at the end of the week,” Caputo said. “We got an update that we were going to play with limited access and no fans.”

The game was back-and-forth as it featured 10 lead changes and 10 ties.

Delaware State had a chance to win on the final possession after Morgan State missed a pair of free throws. Sharajah Collins drove down the court and went for a layup attempt but was whistled for an offensive foul as the referees ruled a charge.

Morgan State inbounded the ball and ran out the clock. Then everyone packed up and went home after the cancellation was made official.

“That kind of softened the blow to be honest because the loss was hard to swallow,” Caputo said. “Both teams were evenly-matched and playing hard. I just felt like a couple calls here and there just didn’t go our way. Some big block-charge calls went against us.”

Still, the defeat didn’t put a damper on what was the Delaware State women’s most successful season in more than 10 years.

The Hornets won 12 games this year, including an 8-8 mark in MEAC play. The 12 wins are the most overall victories for the program since the 2008-2009 season.

It is also DelState’s best conference record since that same 2008-2009 season. The Hornets also defeated instate rival Delaware for the first time in history this year.

Even more impressive, DSU had to welcome 10 new players into the fold this year.

“I knew it was going to be a tough transition but our AD (Scott Gines) was really good about letting me restructure the roster and start from scratch,” Caputo said. “That doesn’t happen anywhere. They had no experience together, but we got our own kids in here. 10 new kids, and we improved. We have better talent in now, better speed, better athleticism, we’re still not at the level we want to be at yet, but we’re getting better.”

The Hornets only graduate three players from this year’s squad.

They bring back three full-time starters, including their top two leading scorers in Collins and Lyric Turner. Point guard Janasia Law will also return.

Delaware State will also get a boost from Ole Miss transfer Shannon Dozier who sat out this past season in accordance with NCAA transfer regulations. Caputo said the team is also expecting some newcomers who can contribute right away.

“Next year should hopefully be our best year yet,” Caputo said. “We’re going to be ready to go with some new impact players. We got a good schedule and lots of home games. All the kids returning will be in better shape and we’ll get a full summer, a full offseason with them. I’m excited, with all that experience, we should be even better.”