Delaware 81, Hofstra 77

The first-place Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens had their backs against the wall early against Hofstra, but were able to escape the Mack Sports Complex with an 81-77 victory Wednesday night.

Zeke Upshaw's 26 points were not enough to hold off a late Delaware comeback.
Zeke Upshaw’s great shooting performance was not enough to hold off a late Delaware comeback. (Photo Courtesy: Hofstra Athletic Communications)

Hofstra played lock-down defense early on, not allowing a Delaware field goal in the first five minutes of the game. The Pride started the game on a 15-3 run and took a 41-32 lead into halftime. Delaware was held to just 1-of-13 shooting from behind the arc in the first half, while Hofstra made seven of their 14 attempts from deep. At the break it was Zeke Upshaw leading the way for the Pride with 18 points.

Delaware trailed by as much as 15 late in the first half, but began to employ a full-court press. The pressure was extremely effective in rattling the Pride, as they had trouble in-bounding the ball on multiple possessions.The pressure was enough to help trim the lead to a much more manageable nine at halftime.

“Their point guard went out of the game, so we started pressing,” Delaware head coach Monté Ross said. “They started getting a little skittish and turning the ball over, and it really energized our group.”

In the second half Delaware, in particular Kyle Anderson, woke up offensively. After making just one shot in the first half, Anderson knocked down three of the team’s first four baskets to start the second half, including two from behind the arc, for a quick eight points.

“We got down 15 in the first half, but there was no panic whenever they would come over to the bench,” Ross said.  “We’ve been down before, and these guys understand what it takes to get back into the game.”

Hofstra was able to hold off Delaware’s charge until a Devon Saddler free throw gave the Blue Hens a 66-65 lead with 7:15 remaining. The lead changed hands four more times down the stretch as the teams entered the final minute of regulation deadlocked at 75.

Saddler gave Delaware the deciding points on a put-back off his own miss with 0:47 remaining. Thanks to a couple of offensive rebounds, Hofstra had three opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final seconds, but could not find the bottom of the net. Following the missed opportunities, Anderson sunk two free throws on the other end to seal the game for the Blue Hens.

Four players combined for all but two of Delaware’s 81 points. Davon Usher led all scorers with 27 for the Blue Hens while pulling down eight rebounds. Saddler finished just behind with 24 points while pulling down five rebounds and handing out all seven of the team’s assists. Anderson’s hot shooting in the second half propelled him to 18 points while he too grabbed eight rebounds. Carl Baptiste rounded out the scoring with his third consecutive double-double on 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The win marks Delaware’s 20th victory of the season. It is the first time the program has reached the 20 win mark since the 2000-01 campaign. Under Ross, the Blue Hens have steadily increased their win total over the last three seasons from 18 to 19 and now to 20 with three games left to play.

Upshaw finished with a team-high 26 points for Hofstra. Dion Nesmith joined Upshaw in the 20-point club with 22 of his own while dishing out five assists. Moussa Kone had a strong game underneath the basket, grabbing 10 rebounds including a pair on the offensive side of the glass in the final minutes to help keep hope alive for the Pride.

Despite letting a chance to beat the top team in the league slip through their fingers, head coach Joe Mihalich and the Pride feel confident as the season winds down.

“I truly believe we can beat anyone in the league,” Mihalich said. “We’ve been right there with everyone. These guys never give up. We play eight guys and really it’s six guys getting all the minutes. We’re a little undermanned, but at the same time we’re in every game.”

With Delaware sitting clear of the competition at the top of the league and Hofstra lagging near the bottom, perhaps a third meeting in Baltimore is in the cards?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s