DOVER — The Delaware State men almost went two-for-two in dramatic comebacks this homestand.
This time though, the deficit was insurmountable.
The Hornets closed a 20-point gap to five but Hampton held them off as the MEAC leaders earned an 82-72 victory at Delaware State on Monday night.
The Hornets dropped to 5-8 in conference play (7-21 overall) while the Pirates remained in first (11-2 MEAC, 16-9 overall).
“You can’t give a team who is that disciplined that big of a lead and expect to get back in the game,” said DSU point guard Devin Morgan.
DelState wasted a career-best performance from Morgan. The freshman scored 31 points — the highest output by a DSU player this season.
Hampton did most of its damage on the boards, outrebounding the Hornets 48-28. Sixteen of those Hampton rebounds came on the offensive glass for 17 second-chance points.
“That’s been an area that’s been hurting us for a majority of the year,” said DSU coach Keith Walker. “We’ll certainly have to address that with the guys we got coming off the bench and certainly through recruiting.”
Quinton Chievous paced the Pirates with 21 points and 19 rebounds. When the Hornets cut the Hampton lead to five with 5:44 left, Chievous scored the next four points.
“He’s a young man with a big body and can cause a lot of havoc,” Walker said. “He’s an oversized guard who can make his way to the basket with the best of them.”
Morgan helped spark the DSU rally as the Hornets trailed 45-25 with 15:54 to go in the second half. The deficit finally got to 10 points when Morgan nailed a three-pointer, was fouled and hit the resulting free throw for a four-point play.
Joe Lewis and Kavon Waller then hit back-to-back threes to make it a 64-59 before Chievous put Hampton up by nine again.
The Hornets closed to within five one more time. That was when Lewis hit one of two free throws with three minutes remaining but Reginald Johnson answered with a layup and two free throws for Hampton as DSU never got within six points the rest of the way.
Johnson was Hampton’s second-leading scorer as he netted 16 points for the defending conference tournament champions. Brian Darden chipped in 11 for the Pirates while Dionte Adams added 10.
Lewis, who played all 17 of his minutes in the second half, scored 12 points and tied for the DSU lead in rebounds with six. DeAndre Haywood, one of the few DSU players left who played in the MEAC final last season against Hampton, netted 11 points although he struggled from the field shooting 3-of-10.
DelState never led in the contest and Hampton raced out to 36-20 advantage at halftime.
“When you’re playing the top team in the conference you can’t leave a hole like that and come out on top,” Walker said. “Overall, the guys fought like heck in the second half but that was too big of a deficit to overcome.”