DOVER — Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder.
But, even though his team won, Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby found it difficult to see much that was pretty about this one.
The Blue Hens scuffled early, took control in the second half and then made it a sloppy finish before putting away a 59-48 men’s basketball victory over Route One rival Delaware State in a packed Memorial Hall on Thursday night.
Delaware (6-3) led by as much as 53-30 with 6:16 remaining and still were up by 20 with 3:36 left before the Hornets (2-5) netted the game’s final nine points.
“Give Stan’s team credit, they really battled,” said Ingelsby. “They played really hard and were well coached. They slowed the game down on us and took a lot of time off the shot clock. We could just never get into a good rhythm offensively.
“We’ve got to be better,” he added. “We’ve got to be better.”
The Hens, who now lead the all-time series, 16-5, were in front only 26-20 at halftime. But Delaware starting hitting some three-pointers in the second half and that helped put some distance between the Hens and the Hornets.
Junior Jameer Nelson, Jr. (16 points) and senior Ryan Allen (14) combined to sink 7-of-16 three-pointers in the contest.
“It wasn’t as pretty as we wanted,” said Nelson, Jr. “But a win is a win.
“We felt like we could do better but we also were missing shots. We’ve got so many shooters on this team, at some point they’re going to fall.”
Ten minutes into the contest, the Hens led just 5-4. With 3:51 left in the game, it was still only 18-14.
But that was a good thing for the Hornets, who are playing their first season under coach Stan Waterman.
“My biggest takeaway from tonight’s game is one of the things we’re working on is how to compete for 40 minutes and the guys didn’t quit,” he said.
“They played hard right until the end. The guys didn’t quit. We’re shorthanded, we’re injured, but we’re fighting.”
Myles Carter finished with a game-high 17 points for DelState. In one stretch of the second half, he ran off eight straight Hornet points as DSU trailed just 37-28.
But it wasn’t enough. While Delaware shot a modest 44.4 percent (24-for-54), the Hornets hit only 34 percent (16-of-47).
The Hens’ ability to play defense was one of the things Ingelsby was pleased with.
“We dug in and guarded,” he said. “That’s what we needed to do against a team like this. We challenged our group. It’s something to build off of.”
For Delaware State, going through some growing pains, there are always little things to try to build from.
So to face a veteran team like Delaware, which is picked to win its conference, was a good test for the Hornets. As a former Blue Hen player, Waterman also enjoyed seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Waterman, the former Sanford School coach. “They have one of my former players (Jayare Davis) and he had a good game tonight, too, and I figured he would. He had a little extra incentive.
“I saw Ty Perry, Denard Montgomery, Alex Coles, all the guys that I played with and it was a lot of fun to have those guys back and talk about old Blue Hen days. It’s a good rivalry but we got to get better to make it a true rivalry.”
Davis, a freshman for the Hens, finished with nine points and five rebounds. ... Thursday’s game drew a crowd of 1,200. ... The Hens committed 18 turnovers in the game while the Hornets had 23. ... Delaware State plays at Longwood at 3 p.m. on Saturday while Delaware returns to action on Sunday when it hosts UMBC at 2 p.m.