Delaware State has reached the MEAC Tournament semifinals for the sixth time in seven years after a nail-biting 57-55 men's basketball quarterfinal win at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Wednesday evening.
The Wildcats had the final possession with a chance to win the game or send it into overtime, but Stanley Elliot missed a short jumper, and Alexander Starling's tip-in was disallowed after an officials' review determined that time had expired.
Delaware State was ahead 32-22 at the break, and led by as many as 19 in the second half before the Wildcats fought back.
The Hornets will take on the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal between South Carolina State and Maryland-Eastern Shore in the semifinals on Friday at 8:00 p.m.
DSU outscored the Wildcats 16-6 in the last 4:57 of the first half to hold a 32-22 lead at the break. The Hornets appeared to be in control of the game after a fast start to the second half. Delaware State held its biggest lead of the game, 43-24, when Frisco Sandidge capped off an 11-2 run with a jumper at the 15:45 mark of the second half.
Bethune-Cookman refused to quit, and pulled to within 45-38 on a three-point play by Albert Abrahams with 10:21 left to play.
The Hornets regained a double-digit lead, 48-38, on a three-point basket by Jay Threatt on their next possession.
The Wildcats rallied again, and cut DSU's lead to 52-46 on a free throw by Starling with 6:02 remaining.
Each team went more than three minutes without scoring before Sandidge gave Delaware State a 55-46 cushion on a three-point play with 2:47 left in the game.
Bethune-Cookman answered with a 7-0 run, and closed to within 55-53 on a lay up by Starling with 1:15 remaining.
After a Delaware State miss and Bethune-Cookman turnover, Sandidge gave the Hornets a 57-53 lead on two free throws with 10 seconds left.
The Wildcats caught a break when C.J. Reed was fouled two seconds later. His two free throws trimmed Delaware State's lead to 57-55 with eight ticks remaining.
Bethune-Cookman was given new life when Threatt missed two free throws with seven seconds left. After the rebound, Elliot dribbled the length of the court before missing an off-balanced jumper. Starling tipped in the miss, but it was ruled off because time had expired.
"I'm obviously pleased to advance in the tournament, but I'm very disappointed in our play for much of the second half," said Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson, who improved to 12-8 in MEAC Tournament contests. "Bethune-Cookman deserves a lot of credit for fighting back, but we hurt ourselves with poor execution on both ends of the court in the second half. We're moving on because we played well enough in the first half, but we must put together a more complete effort if we hope to reach our goal of winning this tournament."
Sandidge was high scorer for Delaware State with 15 points. He also had a game-high nine rebounds. Threatt added 14 points, while Marcus Neal had 13. Neal led all players with 11 points in the first half, highlighted by three-for-three shooting from three-point territory.
Elliot and Starling led Bethune-Cookman with 15 points each. Reed, a 2010 All-MEAC First Team selection, was held to 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field.