Blue Hen Seniors Go Out in Style in Home Finale as Delaware Overpowers Towson for 80-70 Win; Johnson Nets 1,000th Career Point
February 23, 2011
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
The Blue Hens, playing their final home game of the season, got double figure scoring from five players, including big efforts from senior backcourt mates Jawan Carter and Brian Johnson (above right), and overpowered Towson down the stretch on the way to an 80-70 Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball victory.
Delaware (13-15, 8-9 CAA), which snapped a five-game home losing streak with its first win at the BCC since Jan. 19, moved one step closer to posting a .500 record in league play for the second time in the last four seasons. The Blue Hens will close out the season Saturday at Hofstra before heading to Richmond, Va. for the CAA Tournament March 4-7.
It was a balanced effort for the Blue Hens as Carter (at left) hit on all 10 of his free throws and finished with a team-high 22 points, freshman guard Devon Saddler recorded 20 points and seven rebounds, Johnson netted a season-high 14 points off the bench and became the 28th UD player to reach the 1,000 career-point mark, Kelvin McNeil chipped in with 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Hakim McCullar contributed a season-high 11 points. Delaware's other two seniors, guards D.J. Boney and Edwin Santiago, also contributed to the victory.
Delaware overcame a four-point halftime deficit and scored a season-high 52 second half points, shooting 13 of 22 from the field for the second stanza and knocking down 7 of its last 11 three-point attempts.
“We are really pleased to send the seniors out with a win,” said Delaware head coach Monté Ross, whose Blue Hens recorded their first season sweep over the rival Tigers since the 2002-03 campaign. “Tough teams find ways to win and I was happy that we found a way tonight. Jawan and Brian really stepped up for us tonight as seniors and hit big shot after big shot. They put so much work in and its nice to see their shots fall.”
Towson (4-24, 0-17 CAA), which remained winless in league play this season, lost for the 17th straight time this season and suffered its eighth straight road loss. The Tigers will close out the regular season at home vs. Drexel Saturday and will hope to avoid becoming the first team in CAA history to finish the season without a league win. They are one of only three teams in the nation at the NCAA Division I level winless in conference play this year.
The Tigers, who had defeated the Hens in each of their last two visits to Newark, got big efforts from the duo of Isaiah Philmore and Braxton Dupree but it wasn't enough. Philmore finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Dupree collected 20 points and nine rebounds. Philmore recorded his third double-double of the season and reached the 20-point mark for the fourth time in the last five games while Dupree recorded his fourth 20-point of the season. Dre Conner also contributed 11 points for the Tigers, who lost despite shooting 56 percent from the field in the second half (14 of 25).
Saddler (below right), a leading candidate for CAA Rookie of the Year honors, recorded his fourth 20-point effort in the last six games.
Towson led by as much as 10 points in the first half, going up 26-16 with 7:13 left before a late Blue Hen rally narrowed the gap to 32-28 at the break as McCullar scored twice in the final 90 seconds.
The Tigers remained in charge during the first 10 minutes of the second half, building the advantage to as many as 11 points twice as back-to-back layups by Dupree gave them a 50-39 lead with 12:14 remaining.
But Delaware, which had connected on just 1 of its first 11 three-point attempts, got hot from the outside and stormed back. Carter, Boney, Saddler, and Johnson each hit a three-pointer over a span of three minutes to cut the lead to one and the Hens took their first lead since early in the game at 55-54 on two Carter free throws with 9:16 remaining.
After two lead changes, Towson’s Dupree converted a conventional three-point play with 6:07 left to tie the game at 62-62. But Carter answered with two free throws to put Delaware up for good at 64-62. Towson narrowed the margin to a single point on a jumper by Conner with 4:21 remaining, but Johnson answered with a three-pointer for Delaware and Carter followed with a layup to push the lead back to six at 71-65 with 3:07 left.
Delaware then hit seven free throws over the final 73 seconds, including Johnson’s 1,000th career point with 53 seconds left, to pull away.
“It means a lot to the team and the seniors to go out as winners,” said Johnson, who missed the entire 2009-10 season and the first three contests this season with a knee injury. “We kept fighting and started rebounding and that helped us turn it around tonight. We kept telling each other ‘we can’t lose this one.' "