Delaware 66, Drexel 64.
"You tried to give us one, huh?" Drexel coach Bruiser Flint told his good friend, Delaware coach Monte Ross, as they shook hands after the game.
They did indeed. Delaware (9-11, 4-3 CAA) led 64-49 with 4 minutes left. The Blue Hens led 25-9 after 12 minutes, shooting 12-for-19 with just one turnover. They were doing what they wanted when they wanted. Drexel edged closer, but never really close enough.
Until those crazy final 4 minutes. Delaware, the sixth-best free-throw team in the country (76.6 percent) missed the front end of two one-and-ones and had four turnovers in six possessions.
Damion Lee (30 points) was really starting to heat up for Drexel (8-12, 4-4). In the midst of the Delaware meltdown, Lee was called for his fifth foul by official John Gaffney after minimal off-the-ball contact. If Gaffney gets another look at the play, that likely will be a call he would like to have back.
"I was standing there, and there was a little contact, and he just made the call," Lee said.
Even without Lee, the Dragons kept closing. They had the ball, down one point, as the clock hit 20 seconds. Frantz Massenat (15 points) missed a jump shot. Daryl McCoy got the rebound. Massenat missed a shorter jumper. McCoy got the rebound with 5 seconds left and missed the follow.
Delaware's Kyle Anderson (15 points) made the second of two free throws with 2.6 seconds left. Massenat took the inbounds, got to halfcourt and fired from the identical spot where he hit a shot at the buzzer to beat Hofstra the previous Wednesday. It was on line but way short.
"I was scared when I saw him get the ball," Anderson said. "I was a little worried it would happen again."
Lee had to watch the final 2 1/2 minutes from the bench.
"It was hard," Lee said. "My teammates were finding me and we were just willing our way back into the game and then after the foul call, it was almost heartbreaking watching."
The game really was not close except on the scoreboard. Drexel made it close despite shooting just 34.4 percent because Delaware had 14 turnovers to Drexel's six and all those missed Delaware free throws late. Drexel was 15-for-17 from the line, 45-for-50 over the last three games. But none of that makes up for those 36 minutes, or all those games where they simply did not play well enough to win.
Delaware's leading scorer, Devon Saddler (13 points), spent his night running after Lee.
"They ran him off 300 screens," Saddler said. "I'm so tired."
So was Ross, and he wasn't playing. Would he remember the first 36 minutes or the last 4?
"You know how coaches are," the Blue Hens coach said. "We only remember the bad."
Once the momentum switched, it was that giant ball in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"Sometimes, that thing just starts snowballing and you just can't get out of the way," Ross said.
Delaware really was the better team. Its offense was very sharp from the start.
"We screened, we cut hard," Ross said.
They did that. And then they tried to give it all away.
"We had some turnovers that if my daughter's AAU team did them, I'd be upset," Ross said. "It was the game pressure that Drexel put on us that forced us in those."
Normally, the endgame is like a blur, Ross said.
"It was not a blur to me tonight," he said. "It was like slow-motion, every single play, every single tick of every movement of somebody's body, what are we doing?"
Flint allowed that his team had some good backcourt traps, but he knew, like his friend, that Delaware was trying to give the Dragons a gift.
"We had nothing to do with it," Flint said.
Unfortunately, they had everything to do with getting so far behind.
"Guys played with no energy, man," Flint said. "I always say those guys bring the fight to us. They always have."
Not only was Delaware getting all the loose balls, Flint said, "they got them and laid them in."
This game, Flint said, was a microcosm of the Dragons' season. It is their sixth loss by five points or fewer.
"It's been that kind of season," Flint said.
It's been the kind of season that even when you get a gift, you refuse to accept it.