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Dylan Painter
Junior forward Dylan Painter in action.

Five takeaways from Delaware's CAA quarterfinal win

Photo by Mark Campbell

UD defeats Charleston to advance to the semifinals March 9

Behind a relentless defensive effort and balanced scoring, the University of Delaware men's basketball secured a 79-67 win over College of Charleston in the Colonial Athletic Association quarterfinals on Sunday, March 8. Here are five takeaways from the Blue Hens' conference tournament win.

1. Delaware clamped down on defense

The mantra for the Blue Hens in the week leading up to the season's third match-up with College of Charleston was to lock in on defense for 40 minutes.

In the two regular season meetings with the Cougars, Delaware saw its halftime lead evaporate as Charleston got hot. But Sunday afternoon inside Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., the Blue Hens kept the talented Cougars lineup at bay the entire game.

"I thought we did a heck of a job on the defensive end against a really talented offensive team," head coach Martin Ingelsby said. "We really challenged our guys that we needed to guard for 40 minutes. We've been in two really good basketball games against them and let them slip away at the end. We really connected on that end [today]."

Delaware forced Charleston into 11 turnovers, efficiently turning that into 21 points going the other way. Redshirt sophomore forward Justyn Mutts was incredibly active, grabbing three steals and blocking two shots. As a team, the Blue Hens stuffed five Charleston shots while only getting blocked once.

While the talented starting Charleston backcourt of Grant Riller-Brevin Galloway-Zep Jasper all got to double digits, the other seven Cougars players that saw the court combined for just 14 points. In the Feb. 27 loss in Charleston, South Carolina, Charleston forward Sam Miller hit four three-pointers and finished with 16 points. With Mutts guarding him Sunday and taking away the pick-and-pop, Miller had just four points and missed the only three-pointer he took.

Even the Charleston players that had high point totals didn't get there easily. The Cougars shot just 42.9% from the floor, including a 34.5% clip in the first half. From freshman Johnny McCoy and junior Kevin Anderson blanketing Riller, to junior guard Ryan Allen forcing Galloway into tough shots, to junior forward Dylan Painter emphatically rejecting a Riller lay-up attempt, the stellar defensive showing was a whole team effort.

2. Nate Darling won the battle Of first team All-CAA players

While Riller had 26, junior guard Nate Darling had a supremely efficient 25 points and had the upper hand in the match-up of First Team all-conference players and top-20 scorers in the NCAA. Darling was 5-of-8 (62.5%) from deep and 9-of-17 (52.9%) overall, compared to a 10-of-22 (45.5%) day for Riller that included a 2-of-6 (33.3%) mark from downtown. With Riller guarding him, Darling and Mutts worked a give-and-go play that had Darling curling around a Mutts screen and driving the baseline for a lay-up after speeding past Riller to go up 28-22 late in the first half.

3. The Delaware bigs had a huge second half

Delaware's backcourt duo of Darling and Allen, who was impressive from midrange, combined for 26 of Delaware's 32 first-half points. But in the second half it was the Blue Hens front line who was the most effective on the offensive end. Painter made all four of his second-half field goals, amassing 12 points, while Mutts was 3-of-5 for 10 points. Both forwards got the Blue Hen fans on their feet with big dunks, Mutts throwing down a put-back slam on Darling's missed floater, and Painter sending home a full-extension, two-handed dunk on the fast break that put Charleston out of reach for good. As a team, Delaware shot a red-hot 61.5% from the floor in the second half.

"I think the great thing about our group is we can play different ways throughout a game, whether we play big or we play small," Ingelsby said. "You're always looking to exploit a matchup and take advantage of that on the offensive end."

4. The Blue Hens closed the game out with gusto

After seeing two regular season leads slip away to Charleston, Delaware made sure that wasn't going to happen a third time.

"I kept telling our fellas in the huddle, we've been here twice, let's not do this again, we know how to win this time," Darling said. "We just kept fighting and got a couple big stops, and hit a couple big shots to extend our lead."

After Delaware took an 11-point lead early in the second half, a min-run by Charleston cut the advantage to 47-43, but Johnny McCoy hit a huge three-pointer, his first bucket of the game, to put the Cougars back at arm's length. Later in the half as Charleston was threatening again, it was Darling hitting a trey around a Painter screen that pushed the Delaware advantage to 65-56. Finally, it was Painter's fast-break slam that brought the crowd to its loudest roar of the day and effectively sealed the win.

5. Delaware earned its rubber match with Hofstra

Delaware's semifinal opponent is the top-seeded Hofstra Pride, the regular season champions. In the first meeting of the year in Hempstead, New York, Anderson's last-second coast-to-coast lay-up gave the Blue Hens a 73-71 road win. In the return trip to Newark, First Team All-CAA selection Desure Buie led the Pride to a 78-62 win in front of an electric crowd at the Bob Carpenter Center. After that loss, it was easy to tell the Blue Hens were champing at the bit to play Hofstra again. Now they'll get that chance. In a rematch of last year's fantastic overtime semifinal, Delaware and Hofstra face off at 6 p.m., Monday, March 9, from the Entertainment and Sports Arena and on CBS Sports Network.

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