Blue Hens Hold Off Northeastern, 60-58, in CAA Tournament First Round, Will Face Old Dominion Saturday in Quarterfinals
March 4, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Scott K. Brown (AP)
RICHMOND, Va. -- Jawan Carter scored 17 points while Devon Saddler and Brian Johnson (at left in photo) each hit huge three-pointers down the stretch as seventh-seeded Delaware defeated 10th-seeded Northeastern, 60-58, Friday night at the Richmond Coliseum in the first round of the 2011 Virginia 529 College Savings Plan CAA Men's Basketball Championship.
The Blue Hens, who improved to 14-16 and won a CAA Tournament game for the first time since 2008, advance to Saturday's quarterfinals when they will take on second-seeded Old Dominion at 6 p.m. Delaware and Old Dominion split a pair of regular season meetings, as the Blue Hens posted a 75-67 win in Newark on December 4 while the Monarchs recorded a 67-59 triumph in Norfolk on February 2. Saturday's contest will be the first-ever postseason meeting between the two schools.
Carter, a third team All-CAA selection, led the Blue Hens in scoring for the 16th time this season, but his two of his team-high four assists were his most important contributions during the contest. During a tight, back and forth second half, the Blue Hens trailed 54-51 with 3:52 remaining when the Huskies' Joel Smith connected on a three-pointer.
But following a time out, Carter found Johnson on the left wing, and the fifth-year senior buried a three-pointer just before the shot clock expired to knot the game at 54-54. Carter then stole the ball from Northeastern's Ryan Pierson in the paint, drove the length of the floor, and found Saddler for another triple from nearly the same spot on the floor as Delaware took the lead for good at the 2:45 mark.
Chaisson Allen brought the Huskies within a point by connecting on two free throws with 1:43 to play, but after another UD time out, Johnson drove the lane and scored to again make it a three-point game. Smith then missed a potential game-tying three-pointer, but Carter turned the ball over and committed a foul to give Northeastern life.
Vinny Lima hit two free throws to make it a 59-58 game with 18.1 seconds left and Carter, who had connected on his last 37 free throw attempts, missed his first before making the second to put Delaware up 60-58 with 17 seconds to go.
Following a Northeastern time out Allen attempted a three-pointer, but his shot was well short and the Blue Hens grabbed the rebound. Carter then missed both free throw attempts but Allen lost the ball after crossing midcourt, and during the mad scramble the clock ran out, giving Delaware the victory.
Saddler, who was named the CAA Rookie of the Year on Thursday, reached double figures for the 13th consecutive game with 13 points. Johnson contributed 10 off the bench, while Jamelle Hagins grabbed a game-best nine rebounds in his return after missing two games with a toe injury.
The Blue Hens shot 51.2 percent from the field, the sixth time this season UD has shot at least 50 percent, and went 7 of 14 from three-point range. Delaware also limited Northeastern to just 15 field goals for the game and a 32.6 percentage, although the Huskies stayed close due to 20 of 23 shooting from the charity stripe.
Jonathan Lee led Northeastern (11-20) with 16 points and four assists while Allen, a first team All-CAA selection, added 13 points and a team-leading seven rebounds. Smith was the third Husky in double figures with 10 points.
"I'm obviously very pleased to win this ballgame," said fifth-year Blue Hen head coach Monté Ross, whose team's 14 wins this year are the most since the 2007-08 squad went 14-17. "The manner in which the game was decided with the late scramble was very appropriate given the way both teams battled all night. Our guys really grinded it out, and we were pretty good defensively tonight. In order to win tournament games like these guys have to hit big shots, and Brian and Devon hit huge three-pointers for us tonight. We are just extremely happy to be advancing."
Both teams came out of the gate strong, but after a Kelvin McNeil basket tied the game at 12-12, Northeastern took control by scoring 10 consecutive points. Johnson connected with Hagins for an emphatic alley-oop dunk to end the Blue Hens' 5:25 scoring draught, but Northeastern was still up 10 at 27-17 following a basket by Lima.
However Delaware clawed back by scoring seven of the next nine points, the final two on a Johnson driving layup, to pull within 29-24 with 3:18 remaining. Two free throws by Carter and one by Hagins extended the run to 10-2, as the Blue Hens held Northeastern scoreless over the final 4:20 of the half to close within 29-27 at the break.
UD continued its surge in the second period and two free throws by McNeil put Delaware in front 35-34, giving Delaware is first lead since two minutes into the contest.
Three minutes later D.J. Boney drilled a three-pointer, and after a free throw by the Lee, Boney converted a three-point play to put the Blue Hens in front, 43-39, with 12:52 remaining. Hakim McCullar extended the lead to five before Lee broke a six-minute field goal draught for the Huskies with a three-pointer to make it a 44-42 game.
But the Blue Hens would stay in front, as another three-pointer by Boney put Delaware ahead 49-44 with 8:26 to play.
It was still a five-point game a minute later, but Lee connected on two free throws and Pierson scored inside as Northeastern clawed to within 51-50 at the 5:49 mark.
Lee hit another free throw to knot the contest, and after a few empty possessions for both teams, Lee found Smith for a three-pointer from the right corner as the Huskies went back in front, 54-51, with 3:46 left.
However Carter then found Johnson and Saddler for their three-pointers that put Delaware in front for good.
"It's big to get this tournament win," said Carter. "We have a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow."