NEWARK — Maybe it’s time to stop calling these wins ‘upsets.’
Certainly, Delaware’s men’s basketball players doesn’t think of them as such.
For the third time in their last four games, the Blue Hens knocked off the Colonial Athletic Association’s first-place squad.
And Delaware did it emphatically, too, outscoring UNC-Wilmington by 21 points in the second half to run away to a 70-59 victory over the Seahawks at the Carpenter Center on Thursday night.
Surprised? The Hens say they weren’t.
“I feel like we play to our level of competition,” sophomore Cazmon Hayes said after scoring a game-high 19 points. “Like when we played against William & Mary (on Saturday), we knew we couldn’t just come out lackadaisical and just throw the ball around. We knew we had to come out with a game plan and stick to that game plan.
“I don’t know, when we play those bigger teams, we just come out and play.”
Thursday’s victory gives seventh-place Delaware (7-8 CAA, 8-18 overall) a 4-4 record against the four teams currently tied for first place in the Colonial standings. And the Hens probably should have beaten UNCW (10-5, 15-11) in their first meeting when they blew a six-point lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation before falling by one point in overtime.
“A great win for our team, for our program,” said coach Monte’ Ross. “I couldn’t be prouder of our guys.
“In my humble opinion, the league is so wide open. I think every single night out you’re going to be playing a team that can beat you. I think we’re one of those teams. ... We’re going to guard you. And when we have it going offensively, we like to think that we’re a tough out.”
That being said, the first half of Thursday’s game looked a lot like the end of the first meeting with UNCW. The Hens struggled mightily against the Seahawks’ swarming press at the end of that loss.
On Thursday, UNCW forced Delaware into 10 first-half turnovers. That led to 14 points off turnovers and a 35-25 lead for the Seahawks.
The Hens said they simply came out with a different attitude in the final 20 minutes.
“The only thing we changed was our mentality,” said Hayes. “We knew that we had to be tougher in the second half. We knew we had to be stronger with the ball.”
“In the first half, I would describe it as we had lazy dribbles,” said Ross. “So if they hit your arm, you’re going to lose the ball. Where in the second half, they were still hitting our arms and fouling us a little bit, but we were aggressive so you can withstand those bumps.
“We really challenged our guys at halftime to be tougher all across the board — offensively, defensively — and I thought we did a great job of being tough in the second half.”
Delaware quickly cut UNCW’s lead down to only 40-35 when Kyle Anderson (11 points) nailed a three-pointer less than four minutes into the second half. The Hens then went up 43-42 on a baseline jumper by Marvin King-Davis (16 points) wiwth 12:43 remaining.
It was Delaware’s first lead since the opening minutes of the contest. The Hens never trailed again, either.
Delaware never led by fewer than eight points in the final 10 minutes while going up by as many as 14. The Hens committed only six second-half turnovers while limiting the Seahawks to just 5-of-24 shooting after halftime.
They pulled away despite the fact that standout guard Kory Holden was limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. In his place, freshman Anthony Mosley — the Dover native — contributed five assists, three points and two steals in 17 minutes.
“I thought his command of the game was very good,” said Ross. “It wasn’t just a neutral when he came into the game. I thought it was a positive, he gave us a lift when Kory was on the bench.”
As much as anything, Thursday’s win was big for Delaware because it game them back-to-back wins for just the second time this season. If the Hens are going to have any chance in the CAA tournament, they’re going to have to prove they can string some wins together.
“We’ve been talking about it for quite a while now,” said Ross. “This was the first game of capitalizing on those big wins that we’ve had. When we’ve beat a first-place team, we’ve sort of laid an egg that next game.
“I’m really glad that we’re able to capitalize off of that win on Saturday.”
The Hens outscored UNCW 38-18 in the paint. ... King-Davis had a couple big two-handed dunks in his 6-for-8 shooting night. ... Delaware has won its last seven home matchups against UNCW. ... Hayes has scored in double figures in nine of his last 11 games. ... Delaware plays its home finale on Saturday when it hosts Elon at 12:30 p.m.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.