Hofstra 76, Delaware 69
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) _ Norman Richardson and Craig ``Speedy″ Claxton combined for 50 points to lead Hofstra over Delaware 76-69 Saturday in the America East championship, giving the Flying Dutchmen their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1977.
Richardson finished with 26 points, the last two the free throws that gave top-seeded Hofstra (24-6) a 74-69 lead with 27 seconds to play.
Third-seeded Delaware (24-7) was trying for its third straight league title, but the Blue Hens couldn’t survive the foul trouble of leading scorer Mike Pegues.
The victory was Hofstra’s seventh straight and 17 in 18 games. The Dutchmen have won 26 straight at home, the last 10 in the new Hofstra Arena, which was sold out Saturday with a crowd of 5,124.
The top seed has won the America East title the last seven years and 15 of the last 16. The only visitor to win the league championship game was Delaware, at Drexel in 1993.
This will be Hofstra’s third NCAA appearance. No player on the current team was even born when Hofstra went to the tournament in 1976 and ’77.
A three-point play by Madou Diouf gave the Blue Hens a 54-47 lead with 11:41 to play. Claxton, who finished with 24 points, and Richardson then scored all the points in a 13-2 run that gave the Flying Dutchmen a 60-56 lead with 8:32 to play.
Pegues, who averaged 20.8 points this season and had 19 Saturday, picked up his fifth foul with 3:36 left when he fouled Roberto Gittens who had taken a nice pass from a driving Claxton. Gittens made one of two free throws to give Hofstra the lead for good at 67-66.
Delaware closed to 72-69 on two free throws by Greg Miller with 34 seconds left, but those were the Blue Hens’ final points. Richardson made his two free throws and Rick Apodaca added two more with 5.8 seconds to play.
Pegues picked up his fourth foul with 10:35 to play, and he only had two more points the rest of the way.
Claxton, the conference player of the year after averaging 22.8 points per game, was selected the tournament’s outstanding player.
Kestutis Marciulionis had 14 points for Delaware, which had won eight straight games, while Billy Wells added 13 and John Gordon 12.