|CAA-Leading Blue Hens Squeeze Past UNCW|
NEWARK, Delaware – Senior forward Carl Baptiste ignited a late rally as Colonial Athletic Association frontrunner Delaware survived a scare from stubborn UNCW, 66-65, in a televised men’s basketball game early Saturday at the Bob Carpenter Center.
The Blue Hens raised their record to 16-7 overall and a perfect 8-0 in the CAA with their 10th straight victory. UD has reeled off seven consecutive home victories since a loss to Charleston Southern in early November.
UNCW, meanwhile, had its school-record losing streak extended to 11 games, dropping the Seahawks to 6-16 and 0-7.
“We wanted to slow the game down and control it as much as we could,” said fourth-year UNCW Head Coach Buzz Peterson. “I thought we did a nice job overall, but we did a poor job of getting back in transition after we made shots. We played a tremendous game until the end. It’s a shame we came up short, but we’re not finishing games and that’s the bottom line.”
A wide body in the paint, Baptiste scored eight of his 10 points in the second half to represent one of three Blue Hens in double figures. Senior scorer Devon Saddler added 15 points and eclipsed the 2,000-point plateau in the second half, while senior guard Davon Usher chipped in 13, including 11 in the final 20 minutes.
Junior forward Cedrick Williams of UNCW topped all scorers with 18 points and added eight rebounds. Junior guard Addison Spruill came off the bench to score 16 and grab six boards after being held scoreless the last two contests.
The Seahawks kept the game close throughout and were in position for a mammoth upset when Baptiste took advantage of UNCW’s foul difficulties and put the Blue Hens on his shoulder.
After Chris Dixon scored on a layup with just over six minutes left to provide the Seahawks with a 57-55 edge, Baptiste answered quickly with a layup and then wound up scoring eight of Delaware’s final 11 points. He did most of the damage with Williams and Shane Reybold disqualified with five personal fouls.
“He’s one of the most improved players in the league,” Peterson said of the 6-9, 260-pound veteran from Pittstown, N.J.
UD led at halftime, 28-26, but the Seahawks hung tough early in the final half and built an eight-point cushion, 53-45, on a pair of free throws by Luke Hager, who made his first start of the season. A Ben Eblen layup still had UNCW on top, 55-49, but Usher converted back-to-back conventional three-points to bring the Blue Hens even at 55-all.
UNCW shot 41 percent from the floor on 25-of-61 field goals and UD, which entered the game shooting 45.5 percent and averaging 81.5 ppg, was held to 34.5 percent and nearly 16 points below its average.
The two teams struggled from the floor in a ragged first half that featured six ties and 12 lead changes. UNCW and UD combined for 6-of-30 field goals in the opening 10 minutes of action.
Spruill kept the Seahawks close in the early scoring, collecting six of UNCW’s first nine points, including back-to-back buckets that gave the Seahawks a 9-7 edge with 11:36 left in the first half.
The Blue Hens regrouped behind reserve guard Cazmon Hayes to forge ahead, 20-16, for their largest lead of the half. Hayes scored a string of five straight points and his triple from the left corner capped an 11-4 spurt for UD.
But Williams and Spruill connected down the stretch and the Seahawks still led, 26-25, before Devonne Pinkard’s three-pointer from the right side just before the halftime buzzer gave the Blue Hens a 28-26 advantage at the break.
The Seahawks move over to Philadelphia on Monday to take on Drexel in a rematch at the Daskalakis Center at 7 p.m. The Dragons staged a furious comeback on Jan. 18 in a 79-63 verdict at Trask Coliseum. UD entertains Northeastern on Monday at 7 p.m.
GAME NOTES: The Seahawks now stand 3-10 on the road and 0-4 in CAA away games…UD outrebounded UNCW by a 41-38 margin…The Seahawks went 11-of-13 at the free throw line, but were outscored by 17 points at the charity stripe…Junior guard Freddie Jackson had two assists, two blocks and two steals in 22 minutes…UNCW’s starters went 15-of-36 from the floor…Dixon led the team with four assists…The slippery Sadler now has 2,010 points in his successful career in Newark…The two teams plan again in the regular season finale on Feb. 26 at Trask Coliseum…Reybold, who will attend physical therapy school at UD after graduating from UNCW, returned to action after sitting out six games with a stress fracture in his foot and responded with eight points and six caroms in 19 minutes…There were 16 ties and 18 lead changes in the see-saw contest.