ESTERO, Fla. — Delaware wanted to challenge itself by playing in the Sun Coast Showcase tournament.
On Wednesday night, Oakland gave the Blue Hens all the challenge it could want.
The Golden Grizzlies led from start to finish before downing Delaware, 81-73, in the Sun Coast championship game at Hertz Arena.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Hens (4-2) after they took the first two games in the three-day men’s basketball tournament.
Delaware trailed only 28-26 with 6:06 left in the first half. But Oakland quickly built its lead up to 13 late in the first half before taking a 44-33 advantage into intermission.
The Grizzlies pushed their lead to as many 15 points early in the second half.
The Hens got the deficit down to 56-51 on a fastbreak layup by Ryan Allen with 12:04 on the clock but never any closer.
“Give them a lot of credit, they had us on our heels,” UD coach Martin Ingelsby said in his post-game interview on the Blue Hen Radio Network. “But I think it started on defense for us. We were not digging in like we needed to do against a good basketball team.
“I think they averaged 67 points a game and they had 44 at half. No matter what happens on the offensive end, we’ve got to be better and tougher defensively. We just did not have it tonight.”
Oakland limited Delaware center Dylan Painter to just two points on 1-of-2 shooting. The Hens were only 4-of-5 from the foul line while the Grizzlies were 23-of-27.
Sophomore guard Marco Arletti gave off the bench to net a team-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor. The Hens also got double-digit scoring from Kevin Anderson (14), Allen (11) and Andrew Carr (10).
After shooting over 60 percent in each of its first two games in Florida, Delaware shot just 44.8 percent (30-of-67) on Wednesday. The Hens were 9-of-28 from three-point range with Allen hitting 3-of-7.
Delaware also committed 15 turnovers.
Jamal Cain tallied a game-high 28 points for Oakland as four Grizzlies finished in double figures.
Arletti, the native of Italy, make some big contributions for Delaware in the last couple games.
“He was fabulous,” said Ingelsby. “We probably lose the game by 25 if it wasn’t for him in the first half. He’s coming out of this week very confident. We’ve got to continue to invest in him.”
The Hens continue their busy week on Saturday with a 7 p.m. contest at Temple. They then host Long Island on Tuesday before coming to Dover to take on Delaware State on Thursday night.
“We grew up in those first two games (in the tournament),” said Ingelsby. “We’ll be able to come back, watch the film and learn from a game like this. I told our guys, hey, we want to be in this situation and setting at the end of the year where we’ve got to win three games in a row to win a conference championship.”