Taken on its own, Delaware’s road-win over a struggling Virginia team on Tuesday would have been a decent victory for Monte Ross’s program. The Hens stifled the Cavaliers all night long, holding them to just 35 percent shooting from the floor and 19 percent from three. They then made just enough shots down the stretch to earn the victory. Ross has to be pleased by that successful recipe for success, but it is when you add in all the ancillary stuff surrounding the win, that it becomes quite evident why it was the biggest by Delaware since its last America East championship game triumph in 1999.
Of course, first and foremost is the fact that the Hens punched their ticket to Madison Square Garden with the victory. Delaware will face Kansas State at the place commonly referred to as the Mecca of basketball on the day before Thanksgiving in a preseason NIT semi-final. The Virginia-result earned UD national dap from Dick Vitale during the Kentucky-Duke broadcast on ESPN late Tuesday. The Hens also received accolades via twitter from national analysts Joe Lunardi (ESPN’s bracketologist) and Jon Rothstein (CBS’s college basketball insider). National attention is never a bad thing, and the Hens are going to get a little bit of it over the next week.
It was more than just the earned trip to the Garden though. Delaware beat an ACC program for the first time in a half-century. The Hens had not accomplished the feat since topping Virginia on January 20, 1962. Most of the players’ parents probably weren’t even born then.
Delaware also showed great toughness by bouncing back after letting an 18-point advantage slip away. The Hens fell behind, 42-41, with 7;58 remaining in the second half, but immediately responded with eight consecutive points. UVA would not closer than three the rest of the night.
In other words, the Hens have matured. A talented, but young nucleus has grown into a mentally tough bunch of bruisers. Their reward is fitting; A trip to Madison Square Garden and a pair of nationally televised games.