PA – The University of Delaware men's basketball team rallied from an
early 15-point deficit to take the lead in the second half, but La Salle
center Steve Zack came up with some crucial baskets down the stretch as
the Explorers held off the
Blue Hens, 73-66, Saturday afternoon at Tom Gola Arena in both teams' 2012-13 season-opener.
Zack, whose previous career-high was nine points, scored 19 on the day and added eight rebounds as La Salle won its fifth consecutive home opener. Forward Jerrell Wright added a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Tyreek Duren chipped in 12 points and Sam Mills contributed 10. The Blue Hens limited Explorers guard Ramon Gallaway, the team's leading returning scorer at 14.1 points per game, to just seven points on 1 of 6 shooting from the field.
La Salle, the nation's fourth highest three-point shooting team a year ago, shot just 36.5 percent from the field including only 4 of 14 from behind the arc, but the Explorers did finish 23 of 25 from the foul line.
Delaware was paced by sophomore guard Jarvis Threatt, who scored a team-high 17 points while adding six rebounds on the day. However Threatt left the game with around four minutes remaining due to cramps and did not return. Senior forward Jamelle Hagins, the fifth leading rebounder in Division I last season, picked up where he left off with a game-high 14 boards to go with 12 points and five blocked shots.
Junior guard Devon Saddler contributed 14 points, all in the second half, for the Blue Hens, who dropped their seventh consecutive season opener. Senior Josh Brinkley had 10 points and four rebounds for UD, while freshman Terrell Rogers contributed eight points off the bench. Delaware, coming off an 18-win season in which the Blue Hens participated in the CBI Tournament, shot 45.2 percent from the field but connected on just one of eight three-point attempts.
La Salle won 14 home games a year ago, the program's most since the 1968-69 season, and the Explorers showed why early on, taking a 12-4 advantage at the first media time out. Threatt answered with a driving layup but La Salle then scored nine consecutive points, extending the advantage to 21-6 with 12:49 remaining. Delaware would respond through, as the Blue Hens went on an 8-0 run, including six points by Rogers, to close within 23-16 with 8:38 on the clock.
La Salle answered with six straight points to go back up 13 but the Blue Hens stormed back with a 9-0 spurt to pull within 29-25 on a basket by Threatt at the 4:39 mark. The Explorers went back up nine points late in the half, before a layup by Brinkley and a free throw by Threatt made it a 38-32 game at the break.
La Salle still led by five early in the second half but a 6-0 Delaware spurt put the Blue Hens in front for the first time since the opening minute at 49-48 with 13:06 to play. The teams then traded baskets over the next several minutes, as Saddler scored 10 consecutive Blue Hen points to keep Delaware in the game.
La Salle was up three before Kyle Anderson buried a three-pointer for his first points of the game, knotting the contest at 60-60 with just under four minutes remaining. However Zack converted a three-point play and then scored on a putback to put La Salle up five with 2:59 to play, and the Explorers would not trail from there.
Hagins grabbed a loose ball and laid in a left-handed layup to pull Delaware within three, and the Blue Hens were still down three with just over a minute to play with possession. However a Saddler leaner rimmed out, and Galloway hit two free throws at the other end to put La Salle back up five. Hagins again scored inside with 37 seconds left, but the Explorers went six of six from the foul line the rest of the way to hold off the Blue Hens.
"You have to give a lot of credit to La Salle, they played well to start the game and took advantage of their home crowd," said seventh-year Blue Hen head coach Monté Ross, whose team was picked second in this year's Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Poll. "Our guys did a tremendous job of coming back and we had a couple of good opportunities to extend our lead to three or four in the second half, but we just couldn't get the job done."
Delaware returns to action on Monday, when the Blue Hens take on Penn at 9:30 p.m. in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
Baptiste, 1-3 0-0 2, Hagins, 6-10 0-0 12, Threatt, 7-15 3-5 17, Saddler, 6-16 2-3 14, Anderson, 1-3 0-0 3, Rogers, 3-6 2-2 8, King-Davis, 0-0 0-0 0, Townsville, 0-0 0-0 0, Brinkley, 4-9 2-2 10, Totals, 28-62 9-12 66.
La Salle (1-0)
Wright, 5-14 4-6 14, Zack, 8-14 3-3 19, Duren, 2-11 8-8 12, Mills, 4-12 0-0 10, Galloway, 1-6 4-4 7, Peterson, 2-3 4-4 9, Dunn, 0-0 0-0 0, Brown, 1-3 0-0 2, Totals, 23-63 23-25 73.
Halftime: La Salle 38, Delaware 32. Three-Point Field Goals: UD – 1-8 (Anderson, 1-2, Threatt, 0-1, Rogers, 0-2, Saddler, 0-3); LU – 4-14 (Mills, 2-6, Peterson, 1-2, Galloway, 1-4, Duren, 0-1, Brown, 0-1); Rebounds: UD – 40 (Hagins, 14); LU – 39 (Wright, 10); Assists: UD - 6 (Threatt, Rogers, 2); LU - 10 (Galloway, 4); Fouls: UD - 17; LU - 13; Attendance: 3,400.