BY Senior Sports Reporter
The Blue Hens wild 2020-2021 campaign has finally ended as the Hofstra Pride defeated Delaware 83-75 on Sunday to advance to the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference tournament.
The loss marks the third straight postseason where the Blue Hens were upended by Hofstra, with last season’s loss coming in the semifinals by a score of 75-61.
In mid-January, Delaware split with Hofstra in their weekend series in Newark, but this time around, the Blue Hens were coming off a 37-day layoff between games due to COVID-19 issues within the program. The Blue Hens were slated to play Towson on the final weekend of the regular season, but due to COVID-19 issues in the Towson program, Delaware’s prolonged pause went on even longer.
The long pause seemed to catch up with the Blue Hens on Sunday, as Delaware went cold down the stretch allowing Hofstra to extend their lead until it was ultimately too late.
In the first half, the Blue Hens put together one of the more complete offensive performances this year.
Though the Blue Hens only shot 33% from the field in the first half, consistent three-point shooting, and the ability to get to the free throw line allowed Delaware to continuously put pressure on the Hofstra defense.
In the first half, there were 17 lead changes and nine ties, regardless, the Blue Hens headed into halftime with a two-point lead over the Pride.
Kevin Anderson, who battled injuries at the beginning of the season, showed out for Delaware, finishing with a season-high 22 points to go along with his five assists. Anderson’s three-point shooting helped establish Delaware’s offense in the first half, as well as keeping the Blue Hens alive in the second half.
What ultimately decided the game in the second half was the Blue Hens defensive lapses, as well as Delaware’s inability to establish consistency on offense.
When the Blue Hens played Hofstra earlier in the year, they found much success operating their offense through forwards Dylan Painter and Andrew Carr. In the lone game in which they defeated Hofstra, Painter finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds, while Carr finished with 19 points and four rebounds.
On Sunday, Hofstra’s tight defense on Painter plagued Delaware’s offense, as the inability to get good looks in the paint resulted in the Blue Hens settling for jump shots that just were not falling.
Painter finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds, while Carr finished two points and a rebound. Carr’s shots were just not falling as he finished 1-7 from the field, but Carr, amongst others struggled with foul trouble all game.
Part of the reason the Blue Hens were dealing with foul trouble all game was the play of Hofstra’s Jalen Ray.
Ray finished with 34 points, hitting five three-pointers in the process. Ray’s lightning quick speed as he drove to the basket put Delaware defender’s in a tough position, and led to the persistent foul trouble of Ryan Allen, Aleks Novakovich and Carr.
Down the stretch, Hofstra’s physicality wore on the Blue Hens. As Delaware pulled within two points with 5:34 left, the Pride began to pull away.
Ray began to take over for Hofstra, and a 7-0 Pride run extended the lead to nine with 4:34 left. A late Anderson three point play seemed to give the Blue Hens some life, but it was too little, too late for Delaware.
“I played pretty well, but it doesn’t matter since we didn’t get the win. We had some miscommunication on defense which allowed them to get too many open shots. We also didn’t get to the basket enough and settled for jumpers,” Anderson said to BlueHens.com.
When it was all said and done, the quarterfinals matchup saw 20 total lead changes and 13 ties. The highly competitive game between Hofstra and the Blue Hens was no surprise, as these teams have gotten familiar with each other over the last three postseasons.
Coach Ingelsby stressed how crucial of a role that defense played in the game down the stretch, as well as applauding Ray’s performance. The long layoff was no easy task to return from, but the Blue Hens still put up a fight against one of the CAA’s best teams.
“We got into a rut offensively during the last 10 minutes and needed to be a little more effective around the basket,” Coach Ingelsby told BlueHens.com. “We had a couple of defensive lapses in the second half. Our guys were ready to compete; I’m proud to be their coach and am disappointed for them that they don’t get to play together again this season.”
With the season-ending loss to Hofstra, the Blue Hens finished the season with a record of 7-8. The Blue Hens had nine conference games cancelled this season, with eight due to COVID-19, and the long break paired with injury problems early in the season prevented Delaware from establishing consistency as a team.
The Blue Hens will surely hope for a more consistent 2021-2022 season, and with questions looming regarding the makeup of the roster, the offseason will surely provide some answers. Perhaps the biggest question is what the future holds for the Blue Hens trio of seniors in Allen, Anderson and Painter.