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Coach Martin Ingelsby has Delaware headed in the right direction

The Delaware Blue Hens are looking for a breakout year, and their season-opener against Maryland was a good start.

NCAA Basketball: Delaware at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

COLLEGE PARK — The Delaware Blue Hens of the Colonial Athletic Association are looking for a breakout year in coach Martin Ingelsby’s third season, and after underwhelming finishes in the conference the last two years, he is putting the pieces together.

But Delaware enters the season with a different look. The Blue Hens lost their top scorer from last year, Ryan Daly, in the offseason to transfer. He averaged 17.5 points (10th in the CAA), 6.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists for the Blue Hens. This season, Delaware will lean on Eric Carter, Ryan Allen, and Kevin Anderson.

The injury bug has also struck the team. The squad is starting its season without its top returning scorer, Allen, who will sit the first two months with a foot injury. Regardless, things are looking up for the Blue Hens because of one guy: Eric Carter.

The 6’9 forward put on a clinic against the Maryland Terrapins on Tuesday night. He went 12 for 14 from the field, shot 80 percent from the free throw line, and grabbed nine rebounds during a 29-point performance. The Blue Hens suffered a six-point loss, 73-67, but they kept up with the Terps after trailing by 22 points in the second half.

It was a gutsy effort. The team scored 18 points off turnovers, 30 points in the paint, and had 21 points off the bench. The bench performance was needed since Kevin Anderson struggled. Despite falling short, Ingelsby took positives from what he saw.

”To play this way on a big stage gives us a real boost of confidence,” he said. “We aren’t into moral victories but to make it a one-possession game after being down 22 speaks highly of our group...I feel like we got better as a basketball team tonight.”

If the Blue Hens hope to be better this year, their offense will have to improve — they had the league’s worst last season.

Although it seems like a tough task, their pesky defense will be a giant help. Ranked fourth in the CAA in 2017-18, the Blue Hens’ defense kept them in games, and it was evident why on Tuesday night. Delaware held Maryland to 29 percent shooting in the second half as its comeback gained steam. Overall, the Blue Hens held Maryland to 40 percent shooting and just 10 percent from three. A con about their great defense is their propensity to commit fouls. Maryland shot 30 free throws because of it.

Looking forward, the Blue Hens have non-conference games against Cornell, UNC Greensboro, Louisiana Tech, Navy, and Stony Brook. It’s a winnable slate that will test them. Carter and Kevin Anderson‘s play will be key as Delaware looks to finish a little higher in the CAA this season. Their six conference wins in 2017-18 was somehow their most since 2014. Additionally, their overall record of 14-19 was their best record since their 2013-14 NCAA Tournament team that went 25-10. The CAA was loaded last year and it still is, but with some departures across the conference, the Blue Hens can surely compete in that second tier of the CAA.