With a chance to capitalize on Drexel's stumbles out of the gate, the Delaware Blue Hens instead mirrored their rivals as they dropped the season opener to the La Salle Explorers on Saturday afternoon.
Delaware entered Saturday afternoon's season opener with the La Salle Explorers with vital information: if they won this game, they would have accomplished more, against a tougher opponent than their rivals Drexel.
Instead, the Blue Hens started off slowly and, although Devon Saddler led an impressive rally effort in the second half, they too dropped their first game of the year, 73-66.
What can't be explained in the loss was the limiting of forward Josh Brinkley's play time. In just 14 minutes, the senior dropped 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. But that's just it: he only played 14 minutes even though, outside of the Blue Hens' big three, he was by far the most productive player on the squad.
Now, about that big three: they were good, but not great. Jarvis Threatt, who shows nothing but upside after averaging 10.7 points per game in his freshman year, scored 17 to carry the Blue Hens early on.
He was the cornerstone of the Delaware offense in the first half, scoring 12 of his 17 in the first 20 minutes, and keeping the game from becoming a blowout as the rest of the team came out covered in rust.
Big man Jamelle Hagins played a staggeringly efficient game under the boards. He totaled 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting and grabbed an impressive 14 rebounds, which ended up being 42 percent of Delaware's entire rebound production.
Hagins also ended up with five blocks in the season debut that made the senior's intentions clear: he came to lead the team by example.
Saddler, the third, vital piece of Delaware's puzzle, started the season off in similar fashion to Drexel's Frantz Massenat: with a forgettable night from the field.
His first half was a frightening sight for Delaware fans: he missed his only two shots, committed 2 turnovers and notched a technical foul that resulted in four consecutive free throws from La Salle's Tyreek Duren to push the Explorers' lead to 13.
Saddler regained regained his composure however, and came out in the second half determined to make a difference in the game.
At the 13:06 mark, Saddler tied the game for the first time in 25 minutes, and he would be the only Delaware scorer for the next seven ticks of the clocks. He scored 10 straight points to give the Blue Hens their first lead of the game since the opening bucket.
The revival was short-lived as La Salle's Steve Zack scored 7 points in two minutes to give the Explorers a five-point lead with just under three minutes to play.
The five-point gap put the pressure on Delaware and their shooters crumbled under the weight, watching their chances of getting an important non-conference win slip away in Philadelphia.