Blue Hens end drought, punch ticket to tourney

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BALTIMORE — Carl Baptiste scored a career-high 24 points, including a go-ahead layup with 10 seconds left, and top-seeded Delaware squeezed past William and Mary 75-74 on Monday night to win the Colonial Athletic Association championship and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.

Delaware's Carl Baptiste hugs Devon Saddler after the Blue Hens beat William and Mary to win the CAA title. Delaware is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.  GAIL BURTON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
GAIL BURTON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Delaware's Carl Baptiste hugs Devon Saddler after the Blue Hens beat William and Mary to win the CAA title. Delaware is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.

Delaware (25-9) will be making its fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Hens, who previously qualified in 1992, 1993, 1998 and 1999, were making their first appearance in a league championship since losing to Hofstra in the 2001 America East Tournament.

This one wasn’t easy. Delaware trailed 74-68 with 1:20 left before scoring the game’s last seven points. After Devon Saddler made two foul shots, Jarvis Threatt added a three-point play and Baptiste capped the comeback with a bullish layup.

William and Mary had one last chance, but Marcus Thornton bounced a jumper off the rim just before the buzzer sounded. An instant later, Blue Hens fans rushed the court to celebrate with the team.

In the end and from the outset, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Baptiste was too much to handle for the third-seeded Tribe (20-12). He scored 16 points in the first half on 7-for-7 shooting and finished 9 for 11, in addition to going 6 for 7 at the foul line and grabbing eight rebounds.

Thornton scored 22 and Tim Rusthoven had 16 for William and Mary.

Despite playing in the CAA championship game for the third time in the past seven seasons, William & Mary remains in search of its first NCAA Tournament appearance. Along with Army, St. Francis (N.Y.), Northwestern and The Citadel, the Tribe are one of five original Division I members never to have made the NCAA Tournament.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

MANHATTAN 71, IONA 68

In Springfield, Mass., George Beamon scored 16 points and Manhattan held off rival Iona for the conference title and a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Beamon was one of four players to score in double figures for Manhattan (25-7), which earned its first NCAA bid in a decade.

A.J. English had 15 points for Iona (22-10), which had five players with at least 10 points.

Manhattan led by as many as 10 points in the second half. But Iona chipped away, and was within two after English drove for an uncontested dunk with 18 seconds to play.

Iona fouled Donovan Kates, who made one of two free throws for his only point of the game. But a 3-point attempt by David Laury hit the side of the rim at the buzzer.

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE

WOFFORD 56, WESTERN CAROLINA 53

In Asheville, N.C., Karl Cochran scored 23 points, and Wofford beat Western Carolina to capture the conference championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Cochran, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, was 8 of 16 from the field and had five 3-pointers. He made two big free throws with 5.3 seconds left to give Wofford a three-point lead.

The Catamounts, which never led, had a last chance to send the game into overtime but Trey Sumler’s 3-pointer rimmed out as time expired.

It will be Wofford’s third trip to the NCAA tournament in the last five years, but its first since 2011.

Lee Skinner had 11 points and C.J. Neumann added nine points for the Terriers (20-12), who entered as the tournament’s third seed.

Western Carolina (19-15) was led by 17 points from Brandon Boggs.


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