NEWARK, Del. — In a second half during which nothing went right for University of Delaware, the ending was still a sobering surprise.
Sophomore Ryan Allen was fouled with 1.1 seconds left after grabbing his own rebound and attempting a game-winning basket. His first free throw clanged off the rim and backboard, and then he missed the second one after a timeout, handing Towson a 64-63 win on Saturday night.
Heading into the game, Allen had made 15 straight free throws, and the Blue Hens were 3-0 at home against Colonial Athletic Association opponents, but after Delaware (13-8, 5-3 CAA) dominated the first half, it didn't have an answer for the last-place Tigers' suddenly potent offense. Towson has now won seven straight against the Blue Hens.
"We did not play well defensively in the second half," Delaware head coach Martin Ingelsby said. "We didn't dig in like we needed to. That's a team that likes to grind you up. We knew it was going to be a physical game. They guarded us (well) and got confident."
Delaware led 37-22 at halftime, but the Tigers (6-14, 2-5) opened the second period with an 11-1 run to get right back into the game. Both squads traded quick buckets, but the Blue Hens went cold again. Towson's shots kept falling, and Tobias Howard's 3-pointer with 8:25 left tied the game, 50-50.
The Tigers briefly took the lead, 54-53, until Delaware went back up by five with a pair of Eric Carter baskets sandwiched around two bonus foul shots from Darian Bryant. Towson quickly closed the gap again.
After two more ties, a Carter layup put Delaware up 63-61, with 1:44 left, but the hosts would not score again. Brian Dobbs went to the foul line for the Tigers with 48.3 seconds left. He made the first and missed the second, but Alex Thomas grabbed the offensive rebound and made a mid-range baseline jumper to secure the final score.
"Missing the block-out on the free throw, we give up a loose ball and they get an end-one - against a team like that, they've got nothing to lose," Ingelsby said. "They were playing loose and we were a little tight."
Ingelsby had nothing but supportive words to say about Allen after the game, adding that it should not have even come down to free throws at the end.
"I'll take it any night, any day of the week," he said. "I told him to keep his head up. He's a gamer, he's a confident kid and I know he's hurting, but I told our group to be there for him. He's going to get opportunities throughout the rest of the year."
The Tigers shot nearly 70 percent (18-for-26) in the second half, compared to Delaware's 32 percent. Towson also held the advantage in rebounds in the game, 37-31.
"It's a simple fact that we couldn't compete for 40 minutes," Bryant said. "We couldn't ask for a better first half, and then in the second half, we came out lackadaisical. We couldn't take that first punch. They kept hitting us with everything, and we couldn't control their runs."
In the first half, the Blue Hens sizzled out of the gate like a team that had won four of its last five games. Delaware took a 14-3 lead with balanced scoring and stingy defense. After Towson's defense took away the inside game, the Hens maintained their double-digit lead with 3-pointers from bench players Matt Veretto, Colin Goss and Ryan Johnson. Delaware led by as many as 18 before the Tigers pushed across three points in the final minute of the half.
Carter scored a game-high 14 points for the Blue Hens and added eight boards, while Allen and Bryant finished with 13 apiece. Kevin Anderson scored eight points and dished out four assists.
Nine different players lit up the scoreboard for Towson, with Dobbs' 13 points leading the way.
Despite a largely successful seasons to this point, the Blue Hens have suffered a few losses against teams with bad records. With a full week of practice ahead of them, the players will have time to work out the kinks.
"This is a tough one to swallow," Bryant said. "We're going to take this week and get better. If we had won the game, we would have the same mindset. We have to figure out what we can do to maintain the same intensity throughout the whole game."