BY KONNER METZ
Managing Sports Editor
Not often do mid-major programs like Delaware get chances to square off versus the nation’s top teams in a regular season environment. On Friday, the Hens will be offered that opportunity.
Delaware (1-1) will make the trip down to Durham, North Carolina for a road test unlike any other, in Cameron Indoor Stadium versus the No. 7 Duke Blue Devils (2-0).
The Hens and Blue Devils only have two marks of matchup history, the most recent being a 88-50 Duke blowout in 2012. Delaware guard Devon Saddler led all players with 23 points, but the Mason Plumlee-led Duke squad had no trouble with the lowly mid-major.
Now, nearly ten years later, the Delaware program is looking up behind the lead of seventh year head coach Martin Ingelsby. After winning the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship as a heavy underdog, Ingelsby had the team in their first NCAA Tournament since 2014.
In last year’s NCAA March Madness tournament, the Hens had the rare opportunity of competing against one of the top programs in the country, Villanova. As a No. 2 seed, Jay Wright’s Wildcats were a mammoth of an opponent, taking down Delaware 80-60.
Key pieces of last year’s championship team remain, but the losses are hard to overstate. Graduated guards Kevin Anderson and Ryan Allen departed as the program’s two leaders, with ten combined years of on-court experience.
6-foot-10-inch forward Dylan Painter was a force in the paint for the Hens, but he aged out, while junior Andrew Carr (10 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 2021-2022) transferred to Wake Forest this past spring, leaving a big hole inside for Ingelsby.
Reigning CAA Rookie of the Year Jyáre Davis has played the first two games as the only starting forward to the tune of 35 points and nine rebounds. Pacific University transfer Nigel Shadd is the biggest body on the roster (6-foot-9-inch, 260 pounds), but has only played 14 total minutes so far.
The Hens had no issue controlling the boards versus Division II opponent Wilmington University in last week’s home opening win, 78-54. At Air Force last week, the Hens shot poorly and incurred their first loss, 75-71. Air Force outrebounded Delaware 39-35, including a late-game board that turned into a go-ahead three-pointer.
But Duke will bring height and talent that Ingelsby’s Hens will not see again this season, barring an NCAA Tournament trip.
Graduate center Ryan Young stands at 6-foot-10-inch and will play crucial minutes for Duke all season, as will 7-foot freshman Kyle Filipowski, the tenth-ranked recruit by ESPN who already has two double-doubles in his first two collegiate games.
Meanwhile, the top-ranked recruit of the 2022 class will also give Delaware a headache inside the paint. Standing one inch taller than Filipowski is center Dereck Lively II, who made his collegiate debut last week, scoring four points and blocking two shots in 14 minutes off the bench.
But the Duke team is a young squad, made up of mostly underclassmen and sporting a starting lineup of four freshmen alongside junior guard Jeremy Roach, the only main piece still remaining from Duke’s Final Four run last year.
The Blue Devils are also working under first-year head coach Jon Scheyer after Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement this past spring. Scheyer, a longtime Duke assistant, will lead his team to a neutral-site matchup with No. 6 Kansas before heading back home to prepare for the Blue Hens.
On the Delaware side, a bit more experience returns in the starting lineup, with Davis and junior guard Jameer Nelson Jr. expected to lead the Hens’ offense. Christian Ray, a senior transfer from La Salle, has slotted into Ingelsby’s starting lineup, using his athleticism and wingspan to notch a team-leading 24 rebounds through two contests.
Last March, the Hens used early momentum to open up a seven-point edge on Villanova, before falling down double digits out of the halftime break. To stick with Duke, Ingelsby and his team will need that momentum to carry throughout all 40 minutes.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Delaware and Duke had squared off once before, which is incorrect. Duke has two wins over Delaware, in 1995 and 2012, respectively. Last updated: Nov. 15th, 10:50 a.m.