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Delaware leaves New York with concerns following the great opportunity

November 23, 2012 Columns No Comments

NEW YORK – Getting to Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off was big for Delaware, as one might imagine. It gave the Blue Hens a chance to play on a big stage and two chances at quality wins, which could matter if they contend in the CAA as they should. Head coach Monte Ross and his staff scheduled for a veteran team in 2012-13, and this only helped. But the trip also had some concern on the health front, and while the Blue Hens haven’t been hit with a devastating injury, they have something to pay attention to going forward.

While Wednesday’s loss to Kansas State and Friday’s 85-59 blowout at the hands of Pittsburgh were both hard to take, more concerning is that two of the Blue Hens’ best players didn’t play every minute they could in New York. Senior big man Jamelle Hagins and sophomore guard Jarvis Threatt both missed time in the first game, and with the way injuries can derail a season this will be something to watch.

Threatt has struggled with cramps in all but two games before Friday, making it through the entire win over Virginia a night after he made it through most of the game against Penn. Wednesday night, he missed the final five minutes against Kansas State. Hagins missed much of the second half of Wednesday’s game with cramps in both legs, and that came out of nowhere as he said he has never had such an issue before. He said he was fine on Friday after the game, and perhaps in the end Wednesday will be an isolated case. Threatt’s struggle is more concerning since it has happened repeatedly.

The two games in New York showed that the Blue Hens can’t afford to be without either one for a significant period of time. While Delaware is picked by most to contend in the CAA, they aren’t a team with a large margin for error. They certainly have more than they did a year ago, but that team didn’t have much margin for error, either.

Devon Saddler did all he could in both games, scoring 32 on Wednesday night and following that up with 28 on Friday, 19 of them in the second half. The Blue Hens never really got anyone else going on Friday, as Kyle Anderson reached double figures but was basically a non-factor for most of the game. Hagins was just 2-7 from the field and had just his second single-digit rebounding game of the season.

Delaware’s season-opening stretch of eight games away from Newark continues with three more ahead, as they play at Temple on Sunday and Lafayette on Wednesday before concluding the stretch at Duke a week from Saturday. The games at Temple and Duke will give this team two more chances for quality wins, but they may want to come out of those games unscathed from a health standpoint as much as anything. As it is, they sat oft-injured forward Josh Brinkley on Friday due to a bad ankle, mainly for precautionary reasons, and they are hopeful he can play on Sunday at Temple.

The schedule for the Blue Hens is difficult, but perhaps playing the two games in New York helps them prepare for Temple and Duke a little better. It’s also something Ross is confident they can handle.

“I think they’re able to handle it from a physical standpoint and being able to compete and have a chance to win,” said Ross. “They’re also able to handle it from a mental standpoint and meaning, okay, we got our tails handed to us today. Let’s regroup and still have that same confidence that we had before this game going into the Temple game.”

The Blue Hens’ staff will meet soon to go over the concerns with cramps and figure out what they can do to manage it. They would love to have had an answer a few days ago, if not earlier, but there is nothing that stands out upon initial inspection. They have been consistent in how they practice and what players have for meals, so it will need further exploration.

Ross said on Wednesday he thinks this team could have been undefeated coming into New York since they had a great chance to win against La Salle, one of the games where Threatt missed significant time, and one can’t blame him for thinking they could have won on Wednesday night as well since Hagins was more than holding his own before going out of the game and it was still just a three-point game at the end.

Delaware doesn’t need to look far to see how injuries, nagging or serious, can derail a season. Their arch-rival an hour up the road, Drexel, has already lost a key cog for the season. They don’t want injuries to derail the season that Ross has been building towards and that already got a boost from his team making it to New York.

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