Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guru's Musing: Delaware Gains A Sense Of Victory In Loss To Maryland

(Guru’s note: Quotes come from wire reports in this post. The local roundup is directly underneath. If you came first here by bookmark or link to melgreenberg.com, just click the mel’s blog link on the left panel to get to blogspot and the full archive. And yes, the Guru will be on the scene at Temple-Duke.)

By Mel Greenberg

When Thursday morning arrived 24 hours ago the Guru looked ahead in a previous post to that ensuing night’s major showdown between No. 5 Maryland and No. 19 Delaware in the title game of the host Terrapins’ tournament in College Park, Md., in a battle of unbeaten.

In terms of the visiting Blue Hens’ historic season, he said three possibilities existed in Delaware’s toughest test to date.

Maryland could run roughshod over the CAA favorites and Mid-Major power and the Blue Hens would then at least know what had to be done to go deep into the NCAA tournament.

Didn’t Happen.

Coach Tina Martin’s squad could pull a stunning upset and soar to a height that would have seemed improbable several years ago.

That didn’t happen either, though progress continues.

The third was the Blue Hens could cope with the tremendous overall talent of the Terrapins and lose with valor in defeat but gain even more respect across the country as well as added self-esteem.

Consider it done.

Delaware (10-1) fell 85-76 but the Blue Hens are now Mid-Major in name only.

They have earned their right to reside in a neighborhood considered occupied by the nation’s best.

Elena Delle Donne’s powerful 24-point second half to lift her above her 29 point scoring average with a finish scoring 32 puts her in the national discussion along with the other elite names such as Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Stanford’s Nnemkadi Oguwmike, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins.

Moreover, in the wake of defeat veteran coach Tina Martin could speak in sentences of triumph after the Blue Hens showed they could compete with the unbeaten Terrapins (13-0).

“There’s no doubt in my mind, we’re a Top 20 team, if you really want to know how I feel,” Martin said in the postgame press conference.

“We deserve our ranking right now.”

They also deserve a second NCAA at-large invite in their history if they fall short of the CAA title they are favored to win.

That’s the phase of their schedule the Blue Hens are headed next.

Hofstra is another team proving to be at-large worthy, and there are several others out there in the Mid-Major identification, such as Princeton and Wisconsin-Green Bay, who also should be in the keep-an-eye-on-them mix.

Delaware is not likely to see the overall amount of talent from CAA teams that Maryland presented with Laurin Mincy surprising her own ACC folks with a career-high 25 points, Alyssa Thomas with 23 and Anjale Barrett with 16 points.

And understand, Lynetta Kizer is also on Maryland.

Now that doesn’t mean the Blue Hens can just show up against CAA opponents.

The conference is anything but weak.

And with Delaware the new target, Martin’s group will get enough challenges to stay focused and prepare for what could be an interesting showing when the time to go dancing arrives.

Considering the way Old Dominion teams of yesteryear would dominate the league, if the Blue Hens perform similarly the next two months maybe they should be nicknamed New Dominion.

“Delaware is going to go far in the (NCAA) tournament,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said afterwards, as she also gets ready for the ACC wars just around her corner. “They’ve got all the pieces. I think Tina does a tremendous job.”

Incidentally, not previously mentioned in the buildup to the game is the fact that Chris Campbell, Maryland’s director of operations was an assistant to Martin two seasons ago when Delle Donne played her freshman season.

He could feel happy on two fronts – that Maryland is on the way perhaps to the power they were several seasons ago, including the 2006 national championship, and that Delaware is fulfilling the vision the staff back then possessed when Delle Donne returned to the sport of her acclaim.

“The fight we showed tonight is definitely promising,” Delle Donne said, knowing she and her teammates can only get better.

For all the skills she has possessed dating to her formative basketball years, Delle Donne has shown the ability to adjust on nights that things don’t seem to be going her way.

For example, there have been the hot starts such as when she scored so many points in the opening minutes against Yale recently it seemed like NCAA individual game records were in jeopardy that night until Martin sat her star down with the game well under control.

And then there was Thursday night when at halftime Delle Donne’s total was a mere eight – which would great for players in many other locales.

“In the first half I wasn’t attacking enough,” she said. “In the second half I was able to attack the glass more and get into the paint.”

Martin needed an off night from Maryland along with whatever defenses she could mount for the upset. But if the two teams took the floor again, all doubts would be eliminated in terms of whether the Blue Hens could compete.

“Hats off to them for doing an outstanding job, but also to my team,” she said.

“We’ve come a long way at Delaware.

We need to grow and learn from this experience … (Maryland) been blowing people out of this building, and this game was hotly contested from the beginning to the very end.”

-- Mel

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