Delaware goes for the win, but comes up short in upset bid against Hofstra
CHARLESTON, Sc. — The script nearly repeated itself.
A little more than 24 hours after Delaware completed the greatest halftime comeback in CAA tournament history, rallying from down 14 to defeat William and Mary 85-79, the Blue Hens came up just short of an even more impressive comeback, losing to the top-seeded Hofstra Pride, 78-74, in overtime in the CAA semifinals.
Delaware once again trailed big at halftime, this time by 13, and once again delivered a symphony of three-pointers and defensive stands to climb all the way back. Only this time they couldn’t deliver a finishing blow, in regulation or overtime.
“We were down 14 last night, we joked around about, ‘we’re only down 13 tonight,’ it’s kind of go-time for us,” Delaware Head Coach Martin Ingelsby said. “These guys really believe… We got into a great flow on the offensive end. We were fearless.
“They just made one more play than us.”
Tied at 74 in overtime, Darian Bryant fouled Jalen Ray as the Pride guard sprinted in the open court after a Delaware turnover. He hit both free throws to put his team ahead 76-74 with 16 seconds remaining.
After a Delaware timeout, Delaware ran a play intended to get Ithiel Horton or Ryan Allen a chance at a game-winning three but point guard Kevin Anderson stepped out of bounds along the baseline before either got a touch. Ray hit two more free throws after he was intentionally fouled, to seal the win.
“Tough play on that last possession, we were going for the win,” Ingelsby said. “We were down two, we were trying to run a little bit of a ball screen, phase screen to get this guy [Horton] a shot. Ryan Allen was in the corner, kind of a tough one to end the game on.
“Kind of thought for a second, ‘eh, maybe we’ll try to get a post touch’ but nah, we’re going for the win. We’re going for it and unfortunately, we didn’t get it done, but next time we get that opportunity we’re going to go for it again.”
Down 67-65 with 19 seconds remaining in regulation, Hofstra’s Jacquil Taylor fouled Eric Carter as the Delaware forward attempt a turnaround shot from the low post. Carter hit both free throws to tie the game, but the play was designed, like in overtime, to get a look at a three for the win.
“We actually added that last week to try to get him another look,” Ingelsby said of his team’s final play of regulation. “Maybe we should’ve gone back to it in the overtime. They took the two-point lead, we called timeout. We were going for the win. We had some action on both sides of the floor and unfortunately, we didn’t get it done. But we were trying to get a shot for one of these perimeter guys and get out of here with a win.
“I kind of defer to these guys and I think that’s what they wanted to do. We could’ve went back inside but we have Ryan Allen and Ithiel Horton, two of the best shooters in our league, with one of the best young point guards.”
On the next possession, the last of the second half, Delaware successfully double-teamed Justin Wright-Foreman, forcing him to give it up to Ray, who missed a mid-range jump shot.
Wright-Foreman, the second-leading scorer in the nation entering the weekend, finished with a tournament-record 42 points on 15-30 shooting from the floor. He had 40 of Hofstra’s 67 points in regulation.
In overtime, nine of Hofstra’s 11 points came at the free throw line. The foul trouble that Delaware was able to manage effectively in Sunday’s game and through 40 minutes of Monday’s game eventually plagued them. The Blue Hens committed 23 fouls to Hofstra’s 12 and were in the double bonus for much of the second half and all of overtime.
Horton led Delaware in scoring with 21 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Kevin Anderson kept the offense afloat with 13 first-half points and tallied 17 for the game. Allen added 14, all in the second half.
A 15-4 Hofstra run to close the first half, put Delaware down 38-25 at halftime. Delaware countered with a 14-2 run of their own over a 6:30 minute stint near the beginning of second half. The teams went back and forth until the buzzer, changing leads 11 times and tying nine times.
The strong second half came a game after Delaware scored 54 second-half points to upset No. 4 William and Mary in the quarterfinal round.
“We kind of came together, ‘you know what, we were down 14 the other day, let’s just come in and play free,’” Horton said. “I told all of my guys we’re going to catch fire this half, and we believed, and that’s what happened.”
Horton and Allen played the final 6:36 of regulation and all of overtime with four fouls. The duo still combined for 33 second-half points on 11-15 shooting from the floor and 7-10 shooting from three.
Anderson combined for 32 points and 10 assists in Delaware’s two tournament games. The sophomore guard missed five games before Delaware’s regular season finale against Hofstra due to “personal reasons.” In tournament play, with Carter sidelined for much of the second half in both games, Delaware put on display one of the most promising back courts in the CAA. Of the trio, only Allen had CAA tournament experience before Sunday.
“Just staying aggressive and having my guys believe in me,” Anderson said when asked what fueled his strong weekend of play. “They know I’m a good basketball player and they were just behind me the whole time and letting me know that, ‘yeah Kevin, we know you can do it, just do it.’”
With the win, Hofstra (27-6) advances to Tuesday’s CAA Championship game, where they will play the winner of No. 2 Northeastern vs. No. 3 College of Charleston.
In their previous two meetings this season Hofstra outscored Delaware 183-116. Delaware’s 91-46 loss at Hofstra on Dec. 28 is its most-lopsided defeat since joining the CAA 18 seasons ago.
“For our program, in the semis, heck of a statement for us to take them to overtime,” Ingelsby said. “They’re really good.”
Delaware (17-16) has likely played its final game, but a bid to the NIT or another b-list postseason tournament remains a possibility.
If it is the last game, the team will lose Carter, Darian Bryant and Ryan Johnson, but returns its three-leading scorers in the tournament – Horton, Allen and Anderson – and will add transfers Nate Darling, Justyn Mutts and Dylan Painter, before the Blue Hens see the court next.
“They were with me from day one,” Ingelsby said, referring to Carter and Bryant. “They really helped us build it to where it is now. We had some adversity, we had some hurdles, some ebbs and flows through some seasons but those guys did a great job leading by example. I think they set a great example for these young guys as they pass the torch to them.”
“It’s going to be a bright future,” Horton said when asked what lies ahead for his team. “We will be back. I guarantee that.”