NEWARK — The fact is, Delaware’s overall record doesn’t matter.
Whether or not the Blue Hens’ season is a success or not will be determined by what they do in conference.
And the fact is, after pulling out a 67-64 overtime victory over Towson in a Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball game on Wednesday night, Delaware really isn’t in bad shape in the CAA standings.
While the young Hens are just 3-13 overall, they’re 2-3 in the CAA after winning back-to-back games for the first time this season. That puts them in the middle of the pack in a conference where every team already has at least one league loss.
“Yeah, we went through our tough times,” freshman guard Kory Holden said after scoring a game-high 24 points. “But we know what we have. Coach (Monte’) Ross tells us that all the time. Basically, if we stayed together, we all knew that we’d eventually have our run.
“We’d keep getting better. And that’s what we’ve been doing. ... We’re just going to keep grinding it out and get better as a team.”
After giving away a victory at UNC-Wilmington last week, Delaware found a way to win against some tough odds on Wednesday.
The Hens trailed by as many as seven points anad were still down 57-53 with just over a minute left in regulation. But Cazmon Hayes (12 points) sank three free throws with 1:10 remaining before Maurice Jeffers tied the game on a foul shot with 22.8 seconds remaining.
Barnett Harris, the 6-foot-9 sophomore, then blocked a shot in the lane in the closing seconds as Delaware held the Tigers (1-4, 8-10) scoreless for the final 1:34 of regulation.
In OT, the Hens again found themselves down by four. But they took the lead for good when Holden drove the lane, drew the defense and then dumped the ball off to Marvin King-Davis for a dunk.
The basket, with 1:07 remaining, put Delaware up 66-64. Devonne Pinkard then blocked a Towson shot in the lane, pulled in the loose ball and got it to Holden, who was fouled.
The freshman from Salisbury’s J.M. Bennett High made one of two foul shots with 28.3 on the clock to give the Hens their 67-64 advantage before Towson missed a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds. Holden was 11-of-14 from the free throw line.
“The thing I really liked about it was there was no panic,” said Ross. “They actually played like an older group toward the second half of the second half and in overtime. We got down four in overtime and there was no panic. We just ran our offense and got stops on the other end.
“That’s a sign of growth and a sign of development. I couldn’t be prouder of the effort.”
“We had to tough it out — that’s every league game,” said King-Davis, who scored nine points. “Every game is going to be one possession. We didn’t panic. We got down by six but we knew we could come back. There was enough time. And we got it done.”
As for the last-second defense at the end of both regulation and overtime, King-Davis said that’s what the Hens can pride in.
“We feel pretty confident in our defense,” said the junior forward. “We don’t mind playing defense with five seconds left.”
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and 10 ties, the Hens’ three-point advantage at the end was its biggest of the night.
With 47 fouls called in the contest, the contest was played at a slow pace. Both teams struggled from the foul line, especially early in the game.
But, after making just seven of its first 16 free throws, Delaware went 19-of-23 from the foul line in the final 12:25. The Hens were 26-of-39 for the game.
The Tigers shot 15-of-24.
“It’s funny, believe it or not, I’m expecting them to make them all when they go up,” said Ross. “And I’m shocked when they don’t make them. I have confidence in them. The thing about it is they understand our league games are coming down to making free throws and making plays at the end of the game.”
Senior Kyle Anderson added 12 points while Holden had a game-high six assists. ... Holden’s 24-point night was his third 20-point game of the season. ... Jeffers had a team-high 10 rebounds. ... Byron Hawkins (12 points) through in a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 27-25 halftime lead. ... John Davis had 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench to lead the Tigers ... Towson has lost nine of its last 10 games. ... Delaware hosts Drexel at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the second of three straight home games.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.