UD men down JMU, remain in second in CAA

NEWARK — Certainly, it’s too early to start looking too far down the road.

Delaware hasn’t even reached the halfway point of its Colonial Athletic Association schedule after all.

But, after dispatching James Madison, 76-69, on Thursday night, coach Martin Ingelsby can’t help but look around and like where his Blue Hens are right now.

“We’re smart enough to realize we’ve had a heck of a stretch to start the (CAA) season,” said Ingelsby. “With having three home games in a row. … it could get interesting if we handle our business over the next week and a half.”

Second-place Delaware (5-2 CAA, 13-7 overall) never trailed in beating the Dukes (2-4 CAA, 9-10 overall) for the fifth straight time. The victory marked the first time since 2014 that the Hens have won at least five of their first seven league games.

Furthermore, Delaware is already just one victory shy of its overall total (14) and CAA total (6) for last season.

On a night when sophomore guard Ryan Allen netted a career-high 29 points, though, it wasn’t all a cakewalk.

After trailing by as many as 14 points, JMU did whittle Delaware’s advantage down to just 68-65 with 2:31 still remaining.

Finally, after the Hens missed three shots and the Dukes missed two, senior Darian Bryant drove across the lane to drop in a basket that gave Delaware back a five-point lead with 44 seconds on the clock.

JMU got back within three with 30.8 to go. But Allen sank four straight foul shots before Kevin Anderson hit two as the Hens won their third straight home game.

Allen credited Delaware’s three fifth-year seniors — Eric Carter, Bryant and Ryan Johnson — from keeping the Hens from panicking down the stretch.

“They pulled us together and made sure we stayed together,” said Allen. “They made sure that we got doing the tough stuff on the defensive side.”

Allen also said Carter played a big part in getting him open earlier in the contest.

Despite often being double-teamed, Carter finished with 26 points — on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor — with nine rebounds. But all that defensive attention left Allen open.

The sophomore sank 5-of-7 three-pointers, shooting 9-for-15 overall. After Carter netted 18 first-half points, Allen followed with 19 in the second half.

“When he (Carter) gets going, the only thing you can do to try to stop him is double him,” said Allen. “That opens back-door cuts, wide-open threes on the backside. … It definitely helps when he’s playing his best.”

“When they double, our guards can really, really hit shots this year,” said Carter. “I think, in a game like today, when you just see Ryan Allen on fire, just get him the ball.

“At times in the past, we were a little stagnant with that. I think there was a little bit of selfishness. But, this year, this team is gelling at a really high level early. I think we can be dangerous in the second half.”

As much as the Hens needed a strong finish to close out the win, Ingelsby loved the way they started the game. Four different players scored in the first five minutes as Delaware raced out to a 16-2 lead.

Six different Hens had assists in the game, led by Allen with four.

“We were sharing the basketball, making the extra pass,” said Ingelsby. “We always say, ‘Give up a good one (shot) to get a great one.’ I thought for the first 10 to 12 minutes, we got great shots.

“We have a group that thinks for me,” said Ingelsby. “They start throwing stuff out — ‘Let’s look at this, let’s do this, this is good for us. … ’ As our system has continued to grow and evolve and guys have been in our program, they start thinking like me.”

Up next for Delaware is a Saturday night home game with Towson. The Tigers are just 1-5 in the CAA, 5-14 overall.

It’s another opportunity for the Hens to solidify their spot in the top half of the conference.

“We’ve got to stay hungry,” said Carter.

Free throws

Ingelsby’s teams are 5-0 against JMU. The Dukes are the only CAA team that he’s unbeaten against. … Delaware has started 5-2 or better in the CAA only twice before — in 2008 and ‘14. … Carter has scored in double figures in all but one game this season. … Allen has reached double digits in eight of the nine games he’s played since returning from injury. It’s the fourth time in the last six contests he’s tallied at least 19 points.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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