NEWARK – Davon Usher didn’t even tell anyone that his grandmother passed away the day before.
He just wanted to play Wednesday night’s game in her memory.
The Delaware senior then went out and put on a performance that people who watched it will never forget.
In what should go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Blue Hens men’s basketball history, Usher poured in 42 points – the most by a UD player in 50 years – and Delaware somehow overcame a 20-point deficit in the final nine minutes to stun College of Charleston, 67-64, in a Colonial Athletic Association game before a raucous Carpenter Center crowd.
Usher, the 6-foot-6 first-year transfer from Mississippi Valley State, tallied 30 of his points in the second half as the first-place Hens (10-0 CAA, 18-7 overall) miraculously managed to win their 12th game in a row.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Delaware student section rushed the floor, happily celebrating with the players at midcourt like the Hens had just won a championship. It was a scene not seen around here for a Blue Hen men’s game in years.
Usher said it was all for his grandmother.
“I feel like it was just her, helping us, just leading the way,” he said. “I just felt the spirit on us. We just kept fighting, fighting and fighting. This was the best game I’ve ever had in my basketball career.
“I know my team needs me and I need my team,” Usher said about whether he considered sitting out the game. “The only way for me to honor my grandma was do what I love – and that’s playing basketball.”
“He was crying coming off the court and I really didn’t know why,” said coach Monte’ Ross. “We got in the locker room and he made a little speech. He said, ‘Fellas, I didn’t say anything to anybody but that was my grandmother. That’s why we won that game. That was for my grandmother.’
“That’s just the way he is. To be able to channel that emotion and play the way he played – with a heavy heart, without any of us knowing – speaks volumes about him.”
To put Usher’s night in perspective, only three other Delaware players scored in the game: Devon Saddler (17), Carl Baptiste (7) and Cazmon Hayes (1). Usher sank 14 of the Hens’ 22 field goals (14-of-20), hit all three of their three-pointers (3-of-7) and 11 of their 20 free throws (11-of-14).
The last Delaware player to score that many points in a game was Dave Sysko with 45 against Lafayette in 1964.
But, as Ross said, the thing that made Usher’s night truly special was that the Hens won the game, too.
Fittingly, it was Usher’s steal and driving layup through a crowd with 31.8 seconds left gave the Hens a 65-64 advantage – their first lead since the opening four minutes.
Then, after a miss by the Cougars (4-5 CAA, 12-12), Usher sank two foul shots with 17.5 seconds left to seal the remarkable victory. Charleston missed two more shots, including a three-pointer that smacked off the backboard at the final buzzer.
Usher, who won just three games all last season at Mississippi Valley State, said the feeling at the end of the game was pretty amazing.
“That was awesome,” he said. “It brought tears of joy to my eyes. I’ve never experienced anything like this. And I always dreamed about experiencing something like this.
“A lot of guys from other places take stuff like this for granted. But I cherish every moment and so do my teammates.”
“Davon was playing his heart out tonight,” said Saddler.
That happy ending hardly seemed possible not long before when the Cougars owned a 51-31 lead with 8:53 remaining. They were still up 58-43 with 5:23 on the clock and 59-48 with 4:38 left.
But Delaware kept scrambling. Playing a full-court press, the Hens forced Charleston into 11 of its 26 total turnovers in the final nine minutes.
The Cougars also made only five of their last eight shots from the floor and just four of their last 12 free throws.
That left the door open for Delaware and Usher. In the Hens’ game-ending 36-13 run, Usher scored a remarkable 27 points in less than nine minutes.
“I don’t know what to say, I really don’t,” said Ross. “That was one of the most amazing games that I’ve ever been a part of.
“The biggest thing for me is the fact that those guys in that locker room always believed that we were going to win that game. Their confidence in each other, their confidence in themselves, is amazing. … It’s a group that sticks together. It’s a group that always believes that somehow, some way we’re going to find a way to win the basketball game. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
On a night when a lot of different guys played a role in the comeback, it was clearly Usher who was the star.
No doubt, his grandmother would have been proud of him.
“This is a tough-nosed team,” said Usher. “We want to do whatever it takes to win, no matter what. This was the gutsiest, most thrilling game I’ve ever played in my career.
“The students are starting to come back to school and they’re hearing about us,” he said about the crowd. “We tell them, ‘Just come on out. Just watch us play one time and you’re going to want to come back.’ I’m glad we got a chance to put on a show for our fans tonight.”
Usher and Saddler were the only two players who were on the court for all 40 minutes. … Charleston held a decisive 38-17 edge in rebounds. … While the Cougars had 26 turnovers, Delaware committed only eight. … Usher’s 42-point total was the fourth-highest in school history. The school record is the 52-point game L.A. Houston had against Lebanon Valley in 1910… The Hens have won nine straight home games. … Charleston had three players foul out. … The Hens don’t play again until Feb. 12 when they host James Madison at 7 p.m.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.