Teddy Bailey (@TheTeddyBailey)
Beating first-place teams hasn’t been a relatively new thing for the Delaware Blue Hens. Heck, they’ve done it three times in the past twelve days.
Capitalizing on those wins? Now that’s a different story. A story that turned from fiction to non-ficiton on Thursday night against UNC-Wilmington.
The Blue Hens, as they have in many home games this season, struggled out of the gate. Delaware shot just 10-27 (37 percent) from the floor and 2-11 (18 percent) from 3-point range in route to a ten-point deficit at halftime.
Delaware has been a better second-half team, though the halftime deficit has been insurmountable at times throughout the season.
Not this time.
The Hens jumped out to an 18-7 run out of the break to take a 43-42 lead with just under 13 minutes to play and never looked back. Cazmon Hayes led all scorers with 19 points and Marvin King-Davis added 16 points and eight rebounds as Delaware was able to derail UNC-Wilmington 70-59 in front of 2,083 at the Bob Carpenter Center.
“The only thing we changed was our mentality,” Hayes said. “We wanted to be tougher and stronger with the ball in the second half, and we did that. That’s it.”
It really was that simple. Delaware (7-8 CAA) came out firing on all cylinders in the second half – leading to a 15-23 (65 percent) second-half shooting display that was undoubtedly its sharpest half of the season.
“Just a tremendous, tremendous effort from those guys,” Delaware head coach Monte Ross said. “We really challenged them at halftime to be tougher because we were really, really soft with the ball. We were hiding and not getting open. After halftime we came out tougher, and I thought that was the difference of the game – along with our defense.”
Defensively, the Seahawk (10-5 CAA) offense was sputtering in all directions. UNCW was held to just five field goals (5-24 from the floor, 21 percent) in the entire second half.
“Defensively, we kept them from getting layups against us and that’s what you have to do against Wilmington,” Ross said. “They’re so good at driving to the basket. What we wanted to do is make them shoot the ball over us and contest every shot. This was a great win for our team and our program, and I couldn’t be prouder of our guys.”
King-Davis, along with sophomore forward Maurice Jeffers, combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds. The Blue Hens outscored UNC-Wilmington 38-18 in the paint, with the majority of those points coming in an electric second frame.
Delaware was trying to build off of a 73-70 win at William & Mary (10-5 CAA) on Saturday. The Hens completed the sweep after knocking off the Tribe at home in late January.
“This is the first game where we capitalized on those big wins that we’ve had.,” Ross said. “When we’ve beaten a first-place team, we’ve sort of laid an egg in the next game. This was a great job at capitalizing on the win at William & Mary on Saturday.”
In addition to the sweep of the Tribe, Delaware also handed Northeastern (10-5 CAA) one of its five losses in league play earlier in February on the road. This marks UD’s fourth win against the ever-changing CAA leader.
“I feel like we play to the level of our competition,” Hayes said. “We have to get out of that, we try to play our best game of basketball every single time we come out. But we knew we couldn’t play lackadaisical and throw the ball around. We knew that we had to come out with a gameplan and stick to that gameplan. When we play those bigger teams we just come out and play.”
That being said, the Hens don’t view Thursday night’s win as an upset. Back on January 8th, the Seahawks were able to squeeze out a 74-73 win in North Carolina over the Hens.
“No, it wasn’t an upset,” King-Davis said. “We should have beaten them the first time. We just turned the ball over ridiculously with one minute left. Everything went right for them to win that game. We should have easily won that.”
Freshman guard Kory Holden, along with Maurice Jeffers, were haunted by foul trouble for the majority of the affair. For a solid portion of the second half, it was freshmenAnthony Mosley and Eric Carter, along with sophomoreDevonne Pinkard, that were running the show. Mosley was able to dictate the flow of the game and logged a career-high 17 minutes, scoring three points and dishing out five assists. The trio was not just stablizing the lead, but building on it.
“For you guys, it’s different,” Hayes said. “You don’t get to see the hardwork and effort that they put in everyday. We know that they’re more than capable of doing what they did. For us, it was nothing. They just stepped up.”
“Anthony’s command of the game was very good,” Ross said. “It wasn’t just a neutral when he came into the game, I thought he was a positive and a lift for us. It gave us the luxury of not having to bring Kory back in, we could just ride it out. Eric did a phenomenal job of just being steady. Defensively, he was good and he was able to score the ball at the other end.”
For Delaware, they improve to a relatively impressive 7-8 mark in CAA play and are just one game behind Drexel for sixth in the CAA standings. The top six teams earn a bye into the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament. For a team that began the season 1-13, it has been quite the turnaround.
“We’re just a tough team,” King-Davis said. “We started off very badly but Coach Ross keeps saying to stick with it and trust the process. We started getting our grooving back, everyone started playing well and we’re turning it around.”
Delaware will host Elon (3-12 CAA) in its home finale on Saturday at 12:30pm.
“In my humble opinion, the league is just so wide open,” Ross said. “Every single night out, you’re going to be playing a team that can beat you. I think that we’re one of those teams that you have to play well against. We’re going to guard you and when we have it going offensively, we’d like to think that we’re a tough out.”