Lancers wear down Delaware State in runaway win

Published 4:23 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

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For nearly three-quarters of Saturday afternoon’s showdown in Willett Hall, Longwood and Delaware State traded blow after blow in a back-and-forth battle.

The last 11 minutes, however, were all Longwood.

Behind 17 points from Isaiah Wilkins and a 31-13 run over the game’s final 11:03, the Lancers (5-4) pulled away in the second half to dispatch the Hornets 78-58 and improve to 5-1 on their home court. The runaway win was the Lancers’ fifth by at least 20 points at home this season and their fifth time holding an opponent under 60 points at home.

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That late-game run preserved a Longwood win despite Delaware State (2-6) forcing 16 turnovers, which were the Lancers’ second-most in a game this season. Twelve of those giveaways came in the first 28 minutes, during which Delaware State kept the game within two possessions, including a two-point differential with 11:29 to play. However, Nkereuwem finally got the Lancers going with a dunk that he finished through a foul, and his ensuing free throw jump-started Longwood’s game-changing run.

“We had about four or five possessions in a row where we were active and aggressive defensively,” Aldrich said of what drove Longwood’s late rally. “But the rest of the game, we were not. When we were, they drove into the paint, we stole the ball and it turned into transition. When we weren’t aggressive, we got threes knocked down in our face because we were passive. We have to learn that lesson, and tonight, mentally, we weren’t here.”

Longwood made up for those turnovers with 11 three-pointers, their second-most in a game this season, and 21 assists on 31 made field goals – also their second-most helpers in a game this season. Justin Hill had six of those assists, while four others had at least three apiece.

Wilkins, who now leads Longwood with six double-digit scoring games after transferring in from Wake Forest this season, was a steady contributor throughout and helped Longwood keep pace with Delaware State well into the second half. The rest of the Lancers’ multi-headed attack joined him in the final stanza of the second half and saw seven total players score at least seven points, including nine apiece from Jordan Perkins and DeShaun Wade, and eight each from Hill and Zac Watson.

Leaning on their high-pressure offense for the full 40 minutes, Longwood wore down Delaware State and finally broke the game open with an 18-3 run midway through the second half. That surge featured two separate streaks of nine unanswered points and turned a one-possession game into a double-digit lead that Longwood held the rest of the way.

The Lancers’ end-game sprint to the final whistle saw them shoot 13-of-22 (.591) from the field and force Delaware State into 11 turnovers on their final 21 possessions. Longwood converted those giveaways into 16 points as part of a full-game effort in which they scored a season-high 13 points off turnovers.

“It’s a journey. While I’m extremely disappointed with tonight, this group of guys is outstanding,” Aldrich said. “This is our issue – tonight is our issue. Are we going to execute? We never really turned it tonight. We were fortunate to win, and that’s an indication of how good this team can be. We didn’t play very well, and you win by 20.

“But if the execution doesn’t get better, in conference playing any of our conference opponents, this is going to be a loss. Right now we’re struggling as a team to number one, value execution, and then number two, collectively hold one another accountable to executing.”

Longwood’s journey to Big South play will continue next Saturday, Dec. 11, against Morgan State, following a six-day break for the university’s exam week. That will be the second of three straight home games, with the finale of that homestand lined up for Dec. 14 against Carolina University.