NEWARK, Del. – The men’s basketball team shot a lower field goal percentage than the Delaware Blue Hens on Friday night, but the Owls were able to come away with a 66-63 win at Bob Carpenter Center.
With about 30 seconds remaining in the game, junior guard Khalif Wyatt drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Owls a one point lead at 64-63. After a defensive stop and rebound by Wyatt, the Blue Hens sent him to the free throw line where he sank both attempts to allow the Owls to pull off the win with six seconds remaining.
Wyatt, who shot just 1-10 from the field before taking the three pointer, said he was given the green light to keep shooting to give the Owls their first lead since the two and half minute mark.
“Coach [Fran Dunphy] was on the sideline telling me to keep shooting,” Wyatt said. “The last shot was over and he kept trusting me at the end of the game. At the end of the game my teammates kept trusting me and I stepped up for them.”
The Owls (9-3) trailed at the half due in large part to shooting woes from the field, as the team shot 32.4 percent. While the Blue Hens (5-6) shot 39.3 percent at the half and relied on scoring from sophomore guard Devon Saddler, who had eights points and finished with a game high 18 points.
“[Saddler] is a very aggressive scorer, he made a couple big shots tonight,” Dunphy said. “But he’s a good player.”
The first half had only one lead change with the Owls ahead for the first 10 minutes until the Blue Hens took control. But the second half included seven lead changes, as the Owls shot 46.7 percent, which was still behind the home team’s 50 percent shooting.
“Just looking at the statistics of what [Delaware] has done here, they had not lost [at home] and they’ve beat two Philadelphia teams [Drexel, 12/3 and La Salle 12/19] who are playing pretty good basketball,” Dunphy said. “So I was not surprised that it was a down-to-the-wire game, I fully anticipated that. We’re just trying to figure out a way to win games.”
Four Owls finished in double digit scoring, redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore, senior guard Juan Fernandez, Lee, and senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, each finished with 10, 11, 12 and 13 points, respectively. Hollis-Jefferson and Lee led the way in rebounding as they pulled down a combined 15 rebounds.
With a short bench, especially for big men, Hollis-Jefferson said that it’s key that the forwards play smart to stay out of foul trouble.
“We try to play more with our hands up so we don’t get called for the grabs and other little stuff like pushes,” Hollis-Jefferson said.
In the Owls last game against Buffalo, who also shot a lofty team field goal percentage of 63 percent from the field in the second half, they struggled to defend the paint giving way to 50 points inside. In the game versus Delaware, which featured less scoring, the Blue Hens were held to 36 points inside, while the Owls managed 30 points.
“Defensively, we’re a little out-sized right now, but that’s no excuse,” Wyatt said. “They were forcing it in the paint on us, but we got to be a little tougher.”
The Owls extend their win streak to three games after defeating Rice on the road (77-70) and narrowly defeating Buffalo on Wednesday, 87-85. They will face Duke at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.