Tom Zamonski (@tomzamonski)
Jerrelle Benimon and the Tigers spoiled a historical night for one Blue Hen as Towson knocked off Delaware 69-66.
Benimon proved to the Newark crowd why he is one of the top players in the CAA. The forward picked up his nation-leading 12 th double-double of the season with his game-highs in points, 19, and rebounds, 13. The Georgetown transfer has now scored 17-plus points in six straight. Benimon also tied his career-high with five assists.
“He is a good player,” Jamelle Hagins said of Benimon. “I felt like I was playing myself except he can step out a little bit farther.”
Delaware (8-9, 3-1) saw a season-high five-game winning streak and an undefeated conference record snapped. Towson (9-9, 4-1) has won four straight on the road for the first time since 2005-06, as well as improved the Tigers to a record of .500 or better after 18 games for first time since that same season.
Hagins entered the night’s matchup with Towson tied as the top rebounder in program. With his eight rebounds against the Tigers, he set the new Delaware mark and now stands with 924 boards.
“It is bittersweet,” Hagins told reporters. “I finally reached something I always wanted to reach but it would have been better if we got the win.”
The honors did not stop there for the senior. With his 16 points, Hagins became the 30th Blue Hen to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
“It means a lot,” Hagins said of his accomplishments, “1,000 points is something I did in high school and it was something that I definitely wanted to do here. After taking the record (UD’s rebound record) that took something like 25 years for someone to even get close then put my name in the record books. It was a big accomplishment.”
With Benimon leading the charge, Towson was able to grab 35 boards, 15 offensive, while Delaware pulled down 29 rebounds, 11 on the offensive glass.
Delaware head coach Monte Ross was disappointed on his team’s defensive effort.
“I thought we were just a beat off for whatever reason and I just wasn’t happy with our defense in the second half,” Ross said. “We are usually a team that gets stops in the second half.”
The inability to hit free throws nearly proved to be too much for Towson to overcome but the Tigers were able to hit big shots when needed. Towson finished 66.7 percent from the stripe.
Jerome Hairston hit two free throws with 26 seconds remaining to put Towson up 67-64, a lead the Tigers would hold for the remainder of the game.
Hairston, the CAA Rookie of the Week, finished with four points despite shooting 0-3 from the field.
The Tigers have struggled from the charity stripe throughout the year as they entered the game 10 th in the CAA shooting 64.7 percent from the line.
Delaware, the CAA’s top free throw shooting team at 75.4 percent, finished at 88.9 percent from the stripe.
Devon Saddler, the CAA Player of the Week, scored 16 points while being a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. With his scoring performance tonight, the junior passed Harding Nana (2003-06) on Delaware’s Career Points List. Saddler now has 1,359 points in a Blue Hen jersey.
Following a Saddler layup with 17 seconds remaining and his team trailing 67-66, the guard was able to steal the inbound pass but Delaware was unable to take advantage.
“I was just trying to make a play for my team and I thought we were going to make the bucket we had three opportunities to make a bucket,” Saddler said.
“You could quick call a timeout in that situation but the two shots we got you probably wouldn’t take those shots,” Ross said of the sequence. “Maybe you want a different person taking that shot but I thought Terrell (Rodgers) had a good look and got it off the rim. I thought Marvin (King-Davis) did a great job of getting to the offensive glass and giving us another opportunity. The ball just didn’t go in for us.”
Saddler then had a chance to repeat his game-winner from the weekend when he nearly sank a three with time expiring to send the game into overtime.
“I thought it was going in. I was getting ready for overtime,” Saddler said. “I wasn’t trying to look ahead but I thought I could make that shot at the end of the game.”
Delaware will look to bounce back in the win column against Northeastern (10-7, 5-0) on Saturday at 2:00 from the Bob Carpenter Center.