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Delaware holds on, advance to Tip-Off final four

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Goodbye, Virginia. Hello, Manhattan.

Delaware gave up an 18-point second half lead at Virginia but held on for a win 59-53 victory in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Tuesday night.

With the win, Delaware (2-1) advances to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21. Virginia (1-2) will play a pair of consolation games in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 19-20.

Delaware jumped out to an 18-point lead early in the second half on a 3-pointer by Jarvis Threatt that made it 35-17 with 17:00 to go. At that point, it looked like the Blue Hens were in firm control.

Virginia, however, responded with a 25-6 run and took a 42-41 lead on an Evan Nolte 3-pointer with 7:56 to play in the game. Nolte had missed his first seven attempts to that point. The run began at the 16:22 mark when Mitchell slammed home a Harris miss. The Blue Hens came back with an 8-0 run of their own, including six points on two 3-pointers from guard Devon Saddler. The Cavaliers cut the lead to one at 51-50 on a Harris lay-up with 3:11 to play but never got closer.

"I'm really, really proud of our guys and the way they were able to stick with things," Delaware coach Monte Ross said. "One of the things I told the assistants and told the team as well was, 'Look, Virginia's going to make a run at us. They're definitely going to make a run, and it is going to be up to us to settle the troops down once they make their run.' Then, we had to put a run of our own on them."

The Blue Hens were led by Saddler's 15 points, which all came in the second half and included five free throws down the stretch to ice the victory. Threatt had 14 points while forward Jamelle Hagins had 10 points and 16 rebounds.

"I just told the team we need to slow the ball down and just try to get a shot every possession," Saddler said of the second half. "We just kept trying to push it because they were getting back slow. We just needed a good shot."

Virginia guard Joe Harris had a game-high 20 points while forward Akil Mitchell had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Darion Atkins came off the bench to score 11 points for the Cavaliers.

Delaware led Virginia 28-15 at after a first half where the Cavaliers struggled offensively, making 6 of 27 shots from the field (22.2 percent) while committing nine turnovers. Virginia was also 0-for-9 on 3-pointers. Mitchell led the team with nine points and six rebounds.

"The way we started was very hard to dig out of," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Obviously, when the shots aren't falling like that, guys got a little panicky, and we stopped almost running offense hard. It was just the first chance a guy got, he would try to squirt one up. It didn't look like anything that we've tried to work on.

Virginia point guard Jontel Evans saw his first action of the season. Evans checked in with 10:53 to play in the first half and played three minutes. He missed the first two games because of offseason foot surgery.

The Cavaliers have been playing without a true point guard in the first three games due to injuries, which helps to somewhat explain the offensive inefficiency.

"It's hard to live just off catch-and-shoot or on the perimeter," Bennett said. "You have to, whether it's post feeds or penetration, draw the defense in and get action. We really don't have, unless we give a guy a bump off a screen right now, anybody who can do that."

Now, Delaware advances to play some big name opponents on one of the biggest stages in basketball, Madison Square Garden. The Blue Hens aren't used to playing in the national spotlight, but Ross said the team isn't going up to New York City to sight-see.

"I don't want to get too gushy and mushy about Madison Square Garden, but it is the mecca of college basketball," Ross said. "It's big to have an opportunity to play on a national stage, and these guys deserve it. But just deserving it doesn't mean you get to do it. They had to go out tonight and do it. I'm proud of them for that."

NOTES: Virginia guards Malcolm Brogdon and Teven Jones once again did not play. Brogdon has been sidelined with a foot injury since the middle of last season while Jones is dealing with a back injury... This is the 12th meeting between the schools and the first since Dec. 27, 1998. Virginia leads the series 10-2.
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