Delaware Men’s Basketball snaps losing streak with win against UNCW
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Mid-second half and the Blue Hens were riding a cozy 20-point lead into victory. Then it narrowed to 15 points, then 10, and was eventually brought within four by a resounding dunk from an unguarded Devontae Cacok, the 2018 first-team All-CAA senior and University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) standout forward.
But time was on Delaware’s side, and the flightless Hens escaped the Seahawks’ last-minute onslaught with a 70-66 victory, lifting Delaware to a winning 7-6 record in CAA play and to an overall record of 15-11.
Coming off three disappointing losses — two of which were to Elon and William and Mary, both sub-.500 teams — it was a strong overall performance for the Blue Hens, who have been battling a key injury and shooting difficulties of recent.
The first half dragged along with back-and-forth shooting, Delaware failing to pull ahead despite Cacok’s early foul trouble and subsequent visit to the bench.
Delaware guard Ryan Allen came out strong, extending a streak of shooting success and carrying the Blue Hens through the half. Sinking two early threes and going 5-9 overall from the field in the first half, Allen scored with ease early on. Forward Eric Carter, coming off an injury, also showed signs of what would be a successful bounce back, shooting 5-8 with nine rebounds in the first half alone.
“Day by day I’m feeling better and I’m pretty much back at 100 percent by now,” Carter said, noting that, due to his back injury, he could “barely get out of bed” at the time of Delaware’s Feb. 2 game against William and Mary.
“I’ll play with something broken, it doesn’t really matter at this point,” Carter said.
The free throw game was another story, the Blue Hens shooting a woeful 3-9 from the line in the first. The Seahawks, by contrast, shot 66.7 percent from the free throw line, a statistic that would only improve and later haunt the Blue Hens.
Drawing out the lead late in the first, the half ended with the Blue Hens ahead, 37-29.
After halftime, Delaware surged off the bench. It began with an effortless three from guard Kevin Anderson, who shot 0-4 in the first. Then came another three. And another, going 3-3 from beyond the arc and hitting two more field goals.
Up 20 points with 10:22 left in the second, the Seahawks got to work chipping away at the lead, leaving the Blue Hens scrambling with under a minute left. Several fouls resulted in free throw giveaways to the Seahawks, carried also by some timely three-pointers and a late-game resurgence from Cacok.
Blown second-half leads are nothing new to the Blue Hens, meeting similar fates this season against Drexel, Towson and James Madison.
And as the Blue Hens watched their lead diminish from the free throw line, their own free throw woes continued to grow. Delaware finished 7-16 overall from the line.
“They made some shots, they were playing loose, we missed a couple of free throws,” Delaware Head Coach Martin Ingelsby said. “We’ve gotta find a way when we have a lead, and maybe a double digit lead, to continue to play the same way offensively that we did for those 35 minutes to get the lead. We don’t move as well, we don’t change sides of the floor, and we stall a little bit. And that’s an area that we have to get better in.”
But the clock wound down with the Blue Hens still ahead, and the game was a promising display from a team recently afflicted with shooting trouble. Overall, the Blue Hens shot just over 50 percent. Allen led with 15 points, followed closely by Anderson’s 14 and Carter’s 12, with the forward also grabbing 13 rebounds. Guard Ryan Johnson also finished well, racking up ten points overall and sinking two from three.
“This was a must-win tonight,” Johnson said. “It’s a sign of relief because [we’ve] lost so many games, but at the same time we know what we have to accomplish.”