NEWARK – Delaware doesn’t like James Madison.
And why not?
Twice last season the Dukes stole away victories that the Blue Hens thought they had in their hands.
That included an especially painful last-minute collapse against JMU in the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball semifinals.
So it was pretty satisfying for front-running Delaware to thump the Dukes, 81-65, on Wednesday night before a crowd of 4,412 at the Carpenter Center.
Playing in front of the largest crowd for a UD men’s hoops game in nine years, the Hens (11-0 CAA, 19-7 overall) cruised to their 13th straight win after storming out to a 19-point halftime lead. They’re now just the third team in CAA history to start a season 11-0 in league play.
Fresh off his 42-point night against College of Charleston, Davon Usher poured in 34 more points on Wednesday night. His two-game total of 76 points is the most for a Delaware player in back-to-back contests.
A first-year transfer from Mississippi Valley State, Usher wasn’t here for last season’s games with JMU. But his teammates got him up to speed quickly.
“They told me a lot,” said Usher. “But, in short words, they hate JMU. They broke their hearts last year in (trying to) get to the NCAA Tournament.
“This year, when we played those guys, I just felt the animosity. They were talking trash, we were talking trash. I just didn’t like them from the tipoff. I just came into the game with an attitude because we were playing JMU.”
“We came with fire tonight,” said senior center Carl Baptiste, who collected 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. “Just the history with this team – what they’ve said about us, how they feel about us. … We just wanted to send a message.”
A brief scuffle did break out in front of the Hens’ bench in the second half after a few players went to the ground fighting for a loose ball. A few players had to be separated after the incident, which occurred with Delaware leading 58-42 and 13:51 remaining in the game.
The officials studied a courtside video monitor before finally assessing two technical fouls on each team.
Delaware already had the game well in hand by then thanks to its impressive first half. Midway through the half, Usher was fouled on a three-pointer and converted the four-point play before following with another three that stretched the Hens’ advantage to 31-17.
Delaware eventually led 51-32 at halftime as Usher already had 18 at intermission. They never led by fewer than 15 points in the second half.
“I’ve never had a stretch like this,” said Usher, who has 101 points in the last three games. “It’s something special that’s happening. I don’t go out every night expecting to score 25 or 30 points.
“But, with the help of my teammates, they find me in my good spots. They see me in rhythm and they get me the ball. It’s all because of them that I’ve been having those good games.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 firstname.lastname@example.org.