DOVER — There are so many newcomers on the Delaware State men’s basketball team that Delaware wasn’t exactly sure how to guard the Hornets.
It took them until the second half, but the Blue Hens found the right defense.
Delaware held DelState to four points in the final 13:13 as the Blue Hens earned a come-from-behind 62-56 victory in the season opener for both teams Friday night at Memorial Hall.
Delaware ended the game on a 23-4 run behind Marvin King-Davis’ game-high 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Hornets, who are trying to replace four starters from last year’s squad, played 13 different players including six who were getting their first taste of Division I basketball.
“We didn’t know what a lot of them could do,” King-Davis said. “We were out there playing AAU ball basically. It was like, ‘If he makes one O.K., if he makes two he might be a shooter.’ In the second half we located the shooters and it feels like that’s when our defense really started to come together. They didn’t score many in the last 12 minutes.”
Despite the inexperience, Delaware State held a 49-34 advantage on Smyrna native Todd Hughes’ reverse layup with 14:28 left in the second half.
Joe Lewis hit a three for a 52-39 lead a minute later but the Hornets only made two more shots the rest of the way — a layup by Mrjdan Gasevic with 6:53 left to give DSU a seven-point lead and a layup by Dana Raysor with six seconds left after Delaware had the game well in hand.
After shooting 47 percent from the floor in the first half with seven threes, the Hornets shot 28 percent in the second and hit 1-of-11 shots from beyond the arc.
“We have to get the guys used to playing with each other and we have to show a lot more poise down the stretch,” said DSU coach Keith Walker. “This one is tough on us because I thought we were in a position to win and we shouldn’t have lost.”
Devonne Pinkard and Cazmon Hayes started the Delaware rally with back-to-back threes before King Davis converted a layup, was fouled and hit the resulting free throw. King-Davis followed that with another layup and a free throw to draw the Hens within a point.
Chivarsky Corbett gave Delaware the lead at 55-54 with a tip-in with 4:18 to go. Pinkard, who finished with 10 points, soon extended that advantage with another three.
“We kept grinding,” said UD coach Monte Ross. “We held them to two points in the last 12 minutes or something crazy like that. The toughness that these guys displayed is what really impressed me tonight,”
Delaware held the early advantage but the Hornets’ tied it 15-15 on Aric Dickerson’s three from about 25-feet away from the basket with the shot clock wining down. Deandre Haywood hit a layup for DelState’s first lead of the game and Raysor followed with a three of his own which sparked a 13-0 DelState run.
Delaware knows that’s something it can’t keep doing this season.
“We can’t let a team get up like that,” King-Davis said. “Some teams might not let us get back in the game and we’ll lose by 20.”
Freshman Devin Morgan Jr. came off the bench to lead DelState in scoring with 10 points — all in the first half.
Haywood was next with seven points, also all in the first half. Lewis, a junior transfer from New Mexico Junior College, ended up with seven points too.
“I think we had a comfortable lead but they had a lot of veterans and were more poised than us,” Morgan Jr. said. “I didn’t think we executed as well as we could of at the end. I think this is a learning experience for us and I think we’ll get a lot better from this game.”
“At this point in time you have to get everyone’s feet wet just to see what they can do,” Walker said. “I have to do that early in the year. I was real pleased with the way Devin Morgan played and how Joe Lewis did. Some other guys didn’t look as good as I thought they may have but that’s something we need to correct. As we go along, we’ll be O.K. once we get these guys the experience they need.”
The road team has won the last five games between the two teams. Delaware leads the overall series 12-4. ... It’s the first Delaware victory in the season opener since 2005 when the Hens defeated The Citadel. ... Polytech High product Devaughn Mallory made his debut for Delaware State and recorded a block in three minutes of action. ... Corbett and Hayes each scored 12 points for the Hens.