For the second straight Saturday, Towson was lethargic at the start of the second half.
This time, that shortcoming put the Tigers' season in jeopardy.
One week after Towson blew a halftime lead and was outscored 4-0 in the third period by Johns Hopkins, the Tigers reprised that letdown in the Colonial Athletic Association men's lacrosse championship game and lost to Delaware, 10-7.
"The third quarter was the whole difference in the game," Towson coach Tony Seaman said.
The top-seeded Tigers (9-6) had been 4-0 in conference finals. Delaware (11-5) posted its fifth straight win for coach Bob Shillinglaw, claimed its first men's CAA title in any sport and became the first No. 3 seed to win the men's lacrosse tournament.
The 16-team NCAA tournament field will be announced tonight. Delaware, ranked No. 17 by The Sun, figures to get a date next weekend at one of the top four seeds. No. 14 Towson is on the bubble for one of the nine at-large bids.
"I believe we should be in the tournament," Seaman said. "Our numbers, projected across the Internet, are the 13th or 14th team. That wasn't going to change tonight."
Bobby Griebe gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead on Minnegan Field at Johnny Unitas Stadium, 11 seconds before halftime. Delaware came out of the break, went on a prolonged 6-0 run and had a 10-6 lead before Towson scored a meaningless goal with 48 seconds left.
Delaware goalie Tommy Scherr, a junior out of Mount St. Joseph's, blanked the Tigers for more than 29 minutes and had 17 saves.
"In the first half, we were a little bit nervous and weren't playing as a group," Scherr said. "We were a little bit hesitant to slide, thinking about our own responsibility, instead of what the group had to do as a whole.
"We played a lot smarter [in the second half]. When we knocked the ball to the ground, we picked it up and got it out."
The Blue Hens tied it at 6 on a drive to the left side by J.J. Moran with seven minutes left in the third quarter, then deflated Towson with two goals in a six-second span.
Freshman Curtis Dickson dodged his way to the go-ahead goal with 4:38 remaining in the third period. Alex Smith, a Boys' Latin product and the national leader in faceoff percentage, won the ensuing draw and got it to Jordan Hall, who rapidly converted.
The CAA Player of the Year, Smith was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after he won 14 of 21 against Matt Eckerl (Calvert Hall), a rival since their prep days.
"I've faced off against Eckerl more than anyone," Smith said. "I know his game pretty well. He's one of my toughest competitors."
Hall and Adam Zuder-Havens each had three goals and an assist for Delaware. Griebe and Jonathan Engelke had two goals apiece for Towson.
"They put the ball in the goal on their man up [opportunity]," Seaman said. "On ours we hit our player in the back and put him in the hospital."
A long night for Towson got longer with 4:23 left, when a teammate's shot hit sophomore attackman Justin Schneider in the upper back. He was removed from the field on a stretcher, with his neck immobilized, and taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution.
Smith's work staked Delaware to a 3-2 lead, but the Tigers limited the Blue Hens to one goal over the final 21 minutes of the first half.
Three of the four previous meetings between the two had been decided by one goal, including Towson's 10-9 win at Delaware April 11.
Delaware 3 1 4 2 - 10
Towson 3 3 0 1 - 7
Goals: D-Giordano, Zuder-Havens 3, Hall 3, Moran 2, Dickson; T-Batton, Cooper, Griebe 2, Andre, Engelke 2. Assists: D-Zuder-Havens, Hall, Deckelbaum; T-Hagelin, Williams, Cooper 2, Griebe. Saves: D-Scherr 17; T-Antol 9.