Hempstead, NY - Graduate forward Zeke Upshaw scored 26 points and graduate guard Dion Nesmith added 22 points, but Delaware’s Devon Saddler broke a 75-75 tie with 47 seconds to play as the CAA-leading Blue Hens escaped with an 81-77 win over the pride Wednesday night at the Mack Sports Complex.
Hofstra led by as many as 15 in the contest and the Blue Hens did not a take a lead in the second half until 7:15 remained.
Delaware improves to 20-8 overall and 12-1 in the CAA with the win. Hofstra falls to 8-20 overall and 4-9 in league play.
After a slow start that saw no points through the first 2:24, Hofstra raced out to a 15-3 lead with 13:09 to go on a three-pointer from freshman forward Jamall Robinson. The Pride would boost the lead to 14, 21-7, on another three-pointer from Robinson with 11:07 to play. Hofstra would maintain a double-digit lead until a Kyle Anderson three-pointer pulled the Blue Hens to within nine, 29-20, with 5:46 remaining. But Upshaw answered with a three-pointer 12 seconds later to put the Pride back up by 12 and following a Delaware bucket, freshman guard Chris Jenkins hit a three to push the Hofstra lead to 13, 35-22, with 4:02 to play.
Delaware would cut its deficit to 10 with 3:12 remaining before Upshaw went on a personal 5-0 run, draining a three-pointer and then connecting on two free throws to put the Pride back up by 15, 40-25. The Blue Hens would close the opening half on a 7-1 run to trail 41-32 at halftime. Saddler had four points in the run, while Davon Usher added three.
Delaware opened the second half on a 16-8 run to cut the deficit to one, 49-48, with 14:53 to go on a layup by Anderson, who scored seven points in the run. But Nesmith gave the Pride a little breathing room with a three-pointer with 14:10 to go that made it a four point game. Nesmith would score eight consecutive points for the Pride, around a Saddler bucket, to give the Pride a 57-51 edge with 12:47 to play.
The Blue Hens responded with a 10-5 run and once again cut the Hofstra lead to one with 9:00 on the clock on Saddler’s three-pointer. Delaware would tie the score at 62 on a free throw by Anderson. Jenkins and Usher would trade three-pointers for a 65-65 tie with 7:45 to play. Following an offensive rebound by Saddler and a Hofstra foul, the senior would give the Blue Hens their first lead since 1-0 by making one of two free throws.
The lead was short-lived as Upshaw came down on Hofstra’s next possession and drained a three-pointer for a 68-66 lead. But Usher came down the other way and tied the score. The senior would then put the Blue Hens back up one, 69-68, with one free throw with 5:33 remaining.
Following a missed free throw by Hofstra, Usher gave Delaware a three-point lead before junior forward Moussa Kone responded with a nice up and under layup to make it a one-point game again, 71-70, in favor of Delaware.
Hofstra would take a 73-71 lead on a three-pointer by Nesmith, but Delaware would tie the score on a basket by Carl Baptiste. Saddler would put the Blue Hens up, 75-73, before Upshaw would tie the score with a long two-pointer with 2:07 to go. But Saddler would give Delaware the lead for good with a jumper with 47 seconds to go. Anderson and Baptiste would both add a pair of free throws to extend the Delaware lead to six, its largest of the game, with four seconds left. Nesmith would hit a layup at the horn to account for the final score.
Upshaw and Nesmith were the only Pride players in double-figures. Robinson had eight points, sophomore forward Jordan Allen added seven and senior forward Stephen Nwaukoni chipped in six points and 10 rebounds.
Usher finished with a game-high 27 points for Delaware, while Saddler chipped in with 24 points and seven assists. Anderson had 18 points and Baptiste added 13 points and 10 rebounds. The four Blue Hens scored all but two of the team’s 81 points.
Hofstra returns to action Saturday afternoon when it hosts second-place Towson at 4 p.m.