UD men fall just short against Hofstra in CAA semifinals

CHARLESTON, S.C. — They were maybe a handful of seconds and one big shot away from a truly remarkable upset.

And, trailing heavily-favored Hofstra by two points with only 13 seconds left in overtime, Delaware had drawn up a play for an all-or-nothing three-pointer.

But as the Blue Hens started to run the final play, Kevin Anderson — who was closely-guarded by a Pride defender — stepped out of bounds as he started to drive the baseline with seven seconds remaining.

All Delaware could do after the turnover was intentionally foul.

Hofstra’s Jalen Ray sank the two free throws and the top-seeded Pride escaped with a 78-74 OT win over the Hens in a gut-wrenching Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinal on Monday night.

While Hofstra (27-6), which got 42 points from star guard Justin Wright-Foreman, will return to the North Charleston Coliseum tonight for the CAA men’s basketball championship game, fifth-seeded Delaware (17-16) can only wonder what might have happened if it had been able to get off a last-second three.

“We were going for the win,” said coach Martin Ingelsby. “We were trying to get Ithiel (Horton) off a screen to get him a shot. … Kevin got downhill and felt a little bit of a contact to push him out of bounds. It’s a tough one, a tough pill to swallow on that last possession to not get a shot.”

Still, even without the victory, what the Hens did on Monday was fairly amazing.

One night after rallying from a 14-point halftime deficit to beat William & Mary, Delaware trailed Hofstra by 13 at intermission — any be 15 early in the second half.

This was a different situation, though. The Hens had been drubbed by the Pride in two regular-season meetings by a combined 67-point margin.

Just like on Sunday, however, Delaware stormed back again.

Led again by some hot outside shooting from Horton (21 points) and Ryan Allen (14), the Hens got right back in the contest using a 26-11 run to start the second half.

The Hens tied it at 51-51 with 9:33 left in regulation and then went up 53-52 on a Horton jumper with 8:33 on the clock.

“We kind of came in and said, ‘You know what? We were down 14 the other day,’” said Horton. ‘Let’s just play free.’ I told my guys, we’re going to catch fire in the second half and we believed.”

“It says a lot about the character of our team and really the heart that we showed out there,” said Ingelsby. “We’ve got a fearless group. I’m really, really proud of them. … They left it all out there. They persevered through being down 13 points.

“And we put a lot of pressure on them (the Pride). It was a heck of a college basketball game.”
With no more than four points separating the two teams over the final 11:45 of regulation, Delaware knotted the score at 67-67 when senior Eric Carter (12 points) made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds on the clock.

The Pride had a chance to win the game after calling timeout. But a Ray jumper bounced off the rim just before the horn sounded to end regulation.

In overtime, the Hens twice held two-point leads. The last of those advantages came at 74-72 on a jumper from Anderson (17 points) with 1:57 remaining.

The game was tied at 74-74 when Wright-Foreman came up with a steal and got the ball ahead to Ray on a fastbreak. Delaware’s Darian Bryant was forced to foul Ray as he drove to the basket with 16 seconds remaining.

Ray sank both free throws to give the Pride its 76-74 edge. But that still left the door open for the Hens, who called timeout at midcourt with 13 seconds left.

Delaware just never got that last shot.

“They just made one more play than us down the stretch,” said Ingelsby.

The Hens shot a sizzling 62.5 percent (15-of-24) in the second half, including 7-for-10 shooting from three-point range, to get back in the contest. Horton was 5-for-9 from beyond the arc while Anderson and Allen added three threes apiece.

Perhaps the best news for Delaware is that it loses only three seniors in Carter, Bryant and Ryan Johnson while adding three transfers who have been in the program all season.

“This was a heck of a statement for our program, to make the semifinals and battle the top seed to overtime,” said Ingelsby. “I love the direction the program is heading and the progress we’re making. This is a big offseason for us, we need to remember this feeling and use it as motivation.”

“It’s going to be a bright future,” said Horton. “And we’ll be back — I guarantee that.”

Free throws

Delaware fell to 1-4 in CAA semifinal games. … The Hens are now 0-5 against top seeds in the CAA Tournament. … Hofstra defeated Delaware for the first time in four CAA Tournament meetings … Delaware lost for the first time in eight overtime games under Ingelsby. … The Pride won its fifth straight over Delaware. … Horton reached double figures for the fourth consecutive game

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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