Delaware State's best defense is a deliberate offense. The Hornets thrive on order, and system-based basketball.
"We're only going to be strong when we stay within the confines of what we do and how we do it," coach Greg Jackson said.
It was a bit ironic, then, that a chaotic sequence lifted the sixth-seeded Hornets over No. 3 Hampton 63-60 Thursday, continuing a string of high seeds crashing at the MEAC tournament.
With 15 seconds left and the shot clock set to expire, guard Tahj Tate collected a loose ball and shot a high-arching, fadeaway 3-pointer from the left corner.
When it dropped, the Pirates suffered the same fate as No. 1 seed Norfolk State and No. 2North Carolina Central.
"It came down to a tough shot by a very tough player," Jackson said.
It was a tough pill for the Pirates, who had been elevated to the status of nominal favorite without playing a game.
"Of course, it encourages you about your path," coach Edward Joyner said. "You could see the light at the end of the tunnel if you go handle your business."
The Pirates (14-17) couldn't. After falling behind by 16 late in the first half, they rallied for an eight-point second-half lead but failed to get key stops and rebounds down the stretch.
Hampton stymied Delaware State (15-17) for about 32 seconds on the Hornets' game-winning possession. Guard Albert Thomas was trapped, and the ball wound up in the hands of Tate, a 6-foot-4 sophomore.
"I had my eye on the clock," he said. "I just wanted to get a good look at the rim."
Tate said he knew the shot was good as soon as it left his hands. A 3-pointer by Hampton's Deron Power missed with a second remaining.
Joyner lamented his team's slow start and its lack of composure after regaining the lead. Still, the Pirates were in position to win until Tate's shot fell.
"At the end of the day, the kid hit a big shot with no time on the shot clock," he said.
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