Darling, Delaware end nine-game skid against Charleston, advance to conference semifinals
Managing Sports Editor
Nate Darling had 25 points and made five three-pointers, the first of which brought him to the 100 three-pointer mark for the season, to help Delaware defeat the College of Charleston 79-67 on Sunday afternoon in the CAA Tournament Quarterfinals. Delaware snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Cougars in a game where the stakes were the highest.
Charleston opened up the game on an 8-0 run but three-pointers by Darling and Ryan Allen and a layup by Dylan Painter brought the Blue Hens within 10-8. After the first media timeout, Delaware embarked on a 7-2 run to go ahead 15-12. Delaware extended its lead to five four times, going into halftime up 32-27.
Delaware started the second half on a 9-3 run, bursting out to a 41-30 lead on a free throw by Painter. The lead stretched to 11 again at 62-51 with 7:06 remaining, but Charleston countered with a quick 5-0 spurt to pull within 62-56, sparking a Delaware timeout. A Darling three and two Painter free throws pushed the lead back to 11.
A layup by Darling, a fast break dunk by Painter and free throws from Ryan Allen stretched the lead to 15, pulling the Blue Hens away. Charleston never got closer than 12, and Delaware advanced to the CAA Tournament Semifinals for the second year in a row where they will play Hofstra for the second consecutive time.
Delaware only shot 41% from the field in the first half but an offensive explosion helped them shoot 61% (16-26) in the second half. Delaware was 8-16 on three-pointers and 17-21 on free throws. The Blue Hens held Charleston to 42% shooting from the field. Grant Riller had a game-high 26 points for Charleston, but needed 22 shots to get there. Delaware forced 11 Charleston turnovers and scored 21 points off those turnovers, while only commiting seven of their own.
Darling’s 25 points led the Blue Hens. Three other Blue Hens reached double figures. Painter scored 14, and Allen and Justyn Mutts scored 12 a piece, with Mutts adding 11 rebounds.
As good as the offense was, Head Coach Martin Ingelsby praised his team’s defense.
“I thought we did a heck of a job on the defensive end against a really good, talented offensive team.” Ingelsby said. “Really challenged our guys that we needed to guard for 40 minutes.”
Delaware lost the previous two matchups against Charleston while leading at halftime, allowing the Cougars to score 41 and 52 points in the second half of those games. Although the team gave up 40 points in the second half of this game, Delaware turned up the offense and scored 47 points of their own to counter.
“We’ve been in two really good basketball games against them,” Ingelsby said. “We let them slip away at the end.”
Darling was determined not to let that happen again.
“I kept telling our guys in the huddle, we’ve been here twice now, lets not do this again,” Darling said. “We know how to win it this time.”
Delaware did a fantastic job guarding Charleston’s role players, particularly Sam Miller who scored 16 points, hitting four three-pointers against Delaware on Feb. 27. Miller only scored four points on Sunday.
“We were doubling Sam Miller in the post,” Darling said. “Justyn [Mutts] guarded Sam Miller so we could switch the ball screen so he couldn’t pick and pop which was killing us in the second game.”
Delaware will face Hofstra for the second straight year at 6 p.m. on Monday in the CAA Semifinals on CBS Sports Network.
Mutts isn’t ready to take this win home and call it a day. He wants more.
“We didn’t come down here just to get one win,” Mutts said. “We came down here to get three, so it’s just the first of many.”