Bluecoats shine defensively against the Greensboro Swarm

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Delaware Bluecoats’ Mac McClung, guard, shoots a floater as he drives to the basket against the Greensboro Swarm, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Wilmington, DE. (Delaware Bluecoats/Tyrese Williams)

Going into the game at Chase Fieldhouse, the Delaware Bluecoats were coming off a brutal loss. They looked to bounce back after a 149-100 loss to the Maine Celtics. On this night, versus the Greensboro Swarm, it started with defense.

Protecting the paint became Justin Smith’s primary defensive obligation as he took over the center spot from Michael Foster, Jr., who was waived earlier this week. Smith took advantage of the starting role, crashing the boards and setting solid screens for Skylar Mays and Mac McClung. Early in the game, Smith had a stellar block, jumping straight up and denying the shot to barely leave the shooter’s hand.

Charlie Brown, Jr. played with poise and made several good interior passes, but his shot was off in the first half. He could not connect on his four three-point attempts. As usual though, his defense was stellar, lurking the passing lanes and causing turnovers.

The Swarm struggled to finish at the rim in the first quarter, missing uncontested shots. Greensboro eventually settled down, most in part because of Xavier Sneed and Myles Cale. They combined for 25 points going into the half, hitting 5-8 from beyond the arc.

Mac McClung, who put up 44 points the last time the Bluecoats played in the Fieldhouse, picked up where he left off. He demonstrated patience in the offense, waiting for the right second to attack the basket off a screen or in an isolation situation. His perimeter game was steady, missing only one 3-pointer (3-4) before going into intermission.

The Bluecoats defense aggressively hugged the 3-point line, making sure Swarm shooters thought twice before launching bombs. Even Delaware’s bigs pressured passers far from the basket to ensure any and every exchange was difficult.

The Bluecoats’ reserves played with rust early on, making some questionable plays. However, players like Roddy Peters and Aminu Mohammed found ways to contribute defensively and within the flow of their half-court sets. Both would connect for 3-pointers before the evening ended.

The second half started much differently. The Swarm came out firing, knocking down multiple 3-pointers to take the lead from Delaware. It did not last long as the Bluecoats went on a sudden defensive tear, getting out on the break after consecutive steals. 

Another distinct aspect to the start of this half was the shooting for Charlie Brown, Jr., who found his perimeter shot, nailing two 3-pointers in the third quarter. He also kept looking for open teammates as he did earlier. Notably, he found Smith streaking down the sideline on a fastbreak and delivered another dime to Smith out of a pick-and-roll. A nice drive and dump-down pass to McClung under the rim led to a layup.

Brown, Jr. spoke about his play-making ability after the game. “I’ve always had play-making abilities. Tonight, I was just reading what the defense gave me. On his improved shooting in the second half, Brown said, “I just had to get a rhythm. Once I started breathing and my teammates started getting me the rock a little bit more, I felt more comfortable.” 

The Bluecoats could not pull away though, as Xavier Sneed and Jalen Crutcher kept their team afloat. A scary moment for Greensboro came in the fourth quarter when Crutcher drove and fell into the camera man. He was okay and maintained his offensive potency, knocking down a total of seven 3-pointers on the night. Another scary moment came, this time for Delaware, as Skylar Mays hit the floor hard after a drive to the basket. This seemed to energize him though.

Mays went on to hit several 3-pointers to keep Delaware’s lead safe. As the game stayed close, the Bluecoats’ defense became stingy. Mac McClung, known for his scoring and playmaking, caused deflections on several plays, halting any momentum Greensboro had going in separate offensive sets.

Both Delaware and Greensboro applied zone defense during the second half. Delaware went to a 2-3 zone after a timeout, disrupting the Swarm’s flow. On an ensuing play, Greensboro returned the favor, this time going to a 3-2 zone, trying to confuse Mays, Brown, and McClung on the perimeter. It did not work. 

The fifth starter, Patrick McClaw, got into foul trouble early but contributed defensively with four steals and three blocks. Lanky and athletic, he used his length to bother Greensboro guards. Yet, Sneed would not let the night end easily for Delaware. He hit a ridiculous corner 3-pointer while off balance to bring the Swarm within just a few baskets. 

As the clock dipped under two minutes, the lead expanded for Delaware, and Greensboro missed key baskets. Frequent trips to the line gave the Bluecoats a cushion that eventually led to a victory.

The twenty turnovers and numerous missed layups hindered any real progress for the Swarm. Their top scorers kept them in the game, but the Bluecoats were too locked in on defense and scored too many easy baskets in transition for Greensboro to keep pace.

With over 2,000 spectators in attendance on the night after Thanksgiving, Chase Fieldhouse witnessed a competitive game. The Bluecoats ultimately delivered a nice win for the crowd, beating Greensboro 111-105. 

Delaware’s next game is on Sunday, November 27th at 3PM EST. They play the Maine Celtics at Chase Fieldhouse.

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