Norfolk, Va. (Mar. 7, 2017) ---Delaware State fought back from a 10-point second half deficit to tie the score, but faltered down the stretch in a 69-62 loss to Bethune-Cookman in the opening round of the MEAC Tournament at the Scope Arena.
The Hornets, seeded eighth in the tourney, end the 2016-17 season with a 10-22 overall record. The ninth seeded Wildcats (10-21) advance to face No. 1 North Carolina Central in the tournament quarterfinals on Wed. at 5 p.m. Bethune-Cookman also avenged an 88-82 overtime loss to Delaware State during the regular season.
Brandon Tabb led three Wildcats in double figures with a game-high 21 points, highlighted by 8-for-8 shooting at the free throw line. BCU’s Reggie Baker added 20 points (4-8 3pt. FGs), while teammate Diamonte Lewis chipped in with 19 (6-10 FGs; 3-4 3pt. FGs).
DeVaughn Mallory led Delaware State with 16 points (6-12 FGs) and nine rebounds. Senior Mrdjan Gasevic scored a career-high 13 points (5-7 FGs) in his final game for the Hornets. DSU freshman Kobe Gantz came off the bench to add 12 points.
Delaware State totaled 23 field goals (23-64), while Bethune-Cookman tallied 18 (18-52), however, three-point shooting and free throws were key to the Wildcats’ victory.
BCU nailed 10 three-pointers on 27 attempts (37.0%), while the Hornets were just 4-for-19 from beyond the arc (21.1%).
The Wildcats were also 23-for-27 at the free throw line (85.2%). Delaware State hit 12 of its 19 free throw attempts (63.2%).
Each team held six-point first half leads, but Delaware State took a 29-27 advantage into the locker room at the break.
The Wildcats outscored the Hornets 17-5 to start the second half, and opened up a 44-34 lead on a three-pointer by Lewis with 11:59 left to play. Baker scored nine points and Lewis six during the BCU rally.
Bethune-Cookman led 48-38 before the Hornets rallied back.
Gantz capped off a 12-2 Delaware State run with a three-point basket to tie the game at 50-50 at the 5:02 mark of the second half.
The Wildcats responded with a 6-0 spurt, and pulled ahead 56-50 on a lay-up by Lewis with 4:00 left to play. BCU opened up the biggest lead of the game, 69-57, in the final minute.
Delaware State’s leading scorer on the season, Devin Morgan, was held to five points on 2-of-15 shooting, while the Hornets’ second-best scorer, DeAndre Haywood, had one point (0-2) before leaving the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Kavon Waller, DSU’ s fourth-leading scorer, scored six points (2-6 FGs).
“If you had told me that three of our starters would combine for 12 points, I would’ve taken that bet,” said Delaware State head coach Keith Walker, who fell to 3-4 in MEAC Tournament games. “We picked the worst time to have a bad shooting night. The guys played hard, especially on defense, but we just couldn’t get enough shots to fall.”