By Mel Greenberg
NEWARK, Del. –
Individually, mark “41” down as the number of the night Thursday for 15th-ranked Delaware and junior all-America Elena Delle Donne here at the Bob Carpenter Center while to the South note “41” as a defensive team gem for Drexel in the two major games on the Colonial Athletic Association card.
The Blue Hens here are getting the hang of 1 vs. 2 games in the conference.
Four days after turning away Drexel’s attempt to gain a tie at the top of the CAA standings Delaware rode Delle Donne’s explosive 41-point performance to repulse a similar attempt from Hofstra in an 84-66 win over the Pride to open a two-game lead while staying perfect in conference competition.
Drexel, meanwhile, kept Virginia Commonwealth under control with a 47-41 win over the Rams in Richmond to move into a three-way tie with Hofstra and James Madison for second place heading into Sunday’s visit from Hofstra at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.
The high-scoring Pride (14-5, 6-2 CAA) forced Delaware into early turnovers and drove to a nine-point lead at 19-10 with 11 minutes, 25 seconds left in the half before the Blue Hens (17-1, 8-0) rallied to gain a 37-37 tie at the half despite having starters Akeema Richards and Danielle Parker missing significant minutes because of foul trouble.
Delle Donne, who had already scored 16 points by halftime, got Delaware’s first nine points of the final 20 minutes but the outcome was still in the balance at 55-55 with 11:11 left in the game.
Just when it seemed this thriller was going to stay close to the wire, an array of Blue Hens launched a 14-0 run and by the time the game ended Delle Donne had a new building record topping her 40-point performance here earlier in the season in the upset of then-No. 11 Penn State.
Delle Donne also has gained 40 points against George Mason on the road.
Her nation-leading scoring average had shrunk to 27.9 over the previous four games but Thursday’s performance shot her up to 28.7, which is 4.4 points better than runnerup Florida International’s Jerica Coley, who is averaging 24.3 points per game.
Delle Donne, who was 10-for-10 at the line and connected on 14-of-a-career-tying 29 shots, also grabbed 15 rebounds, dealt five assists, blocked two shots, had a steal and committed two turnovers.
Lauren Carra added 16 points to Delaware’s total and reserve Kelsey Buchanan off the bench set a career high with nine points, all scored in the first half.
Hofstra’s Shante Evans, on a two-game homecoming trip including Sunday’s game at Drexel, had 22 points.
She is a graduate of Henderson High and lives in West Chester, Pa., a Western suburb of Philadelphia not far from here.
Katelyn Loper scored 14 points, while Candice Bellochio had 10 points.
“Against a great time like that we have to play at our best – we can’t lose focus,” Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky said, adding that her group has one, possibly two more shots at the Blue Hens, including the Feb. 16th visit from them to Long Island and the Pride’s arena in Hempstead.
“Two games we have lost we got outrebounded badly.”
Delaware had a 48-25 advantage on the boards, including 17-7 on the offensive end. The Blue Hens also dominated 22-4 in second chance points and 15-4 in terms of points from the bench. Hofstra gained a 16-9 advantage in points off turnovers while Delaware outscored the Pride 46-34 in the paint.
Delle Donne, who had a series of injuries and illnesses her first two season, has been on fire as a junior, especially in the wake of her performance as the top scorer and rebounder on the gold-medal USA Basketball World University team in China last summer.
“I think we came out in the first half like we were scared to lose and we were playing passive, really sloppy, weren’t going after loose ball,” Delle Donne said of the way the game went for Delaware.
“The second half more than anything, more than scoring and rebounding, I just wanted to get the hustle plays to get my team going. Once you get those you can really push ahead.”
As for her own effort, Delle Donne said, “We were kind of in a little bit of a lull tonight and some nights you just have to put your team on your back and be a leader for them and this was one of those nights where I saw it, be a leader, and step up.
“I haven’t had to do it as much this season because we’ve had such a balanced attack but we have those nights and there are nights when people put me on their backs. We needed it so you just have to step up to the plate.”
Delaware had another big crowd at 3,510 in the 5,000-seat arena that was sold out for the first time ever for a stand-a-lone women’s game Sunday.
“We got in foul trouble, which really hurt us, so yes it was a test,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said of the Blue Hens’ rally from the nine-point deficit.
“I thought Kelsey Buchanan came in and played solid,” she said. “It’s really hard when you’re a sophomore and you’re going up against Shante Evans, a first-team all-conference player.
“In the second half, we held them to 29 points and the defense speaks for themselves. The kids realized they were in a battle. Give Hofstra credit, they threw the first punch and our kids were surprised by that.
“But we made adjustments and the fact we got a tie at the half, it was a big key. Hofstra runs a dribble-drive offense to just go like a bat out of you know what, just put your head down and try to get into the paint. Then they try to dish off to Shante Evans, who is a big strong lady or kick out to the shooters,” Martin explained.
“They have a senior-laden team, seniors and juniors, those kids know how to play and Hofstra’s a solid program.
“Everybody’s giving us different looks and doing different things. Like I said, I think our team has to adjust on the fly some times. It’s an adjustment because (Hofstra) plays different than anyone else in conference.”Dragons Slay Rams
Kamile Nacickaite scored 17 points and Fiona Flanagan scored a career-high 10 points in Drexel’s win over Virginia Commonwealth.
Defensively, the Dragons (10-8, 6-2 CAA) held the Rams’ Courtney Hurt, one of the nation’s top scorers, to nine points, well below her 22.8 average.
“It was an ugly defensive game but Fiona came up big for us and Kamile really shot the ball well tonight,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said.
Andrea Barbour, VCU’s other big scorer, got 14 points.
Drexel’s game with Hofstra Sunday to wrap up the first half of CAA play tips off at 2 p.m. while Delaware visits James Madison (15-4, 6-2), the two-time defending CAA champions.
So for the third time in a row, Delaware will be in a 1 vs. 2 game, though the Blue Hens have a margin of error. A Blue Hens win would put the Hofstra-Drexel winner in sole possession of second place.
Hofstra beat the Dragons at home 76-65 earlier this month to open CAA play.
Elsewhere in the CAA, William & Mary beat area rival Old Dominion 83-80 in Willamsburg, Va., as Taysha Pye had 23 points for the Tribe (9-10, 2-6).
It was the first win over the Lady Monarchs (6-14, 3-5) in 37 years since 1975.
Old Dominion, which went 17-0 winning CAA titles after joining the conference in 1991-92, went 11-7 in the conference in 2009, the year Drexel knocked off the Lady Monarchs in the semifinals to end their string of titles.
The five CAA losses are second most for ODU, tying the five in the inaugural year in the conference when they began their string.Penn State Tops Michigan
On a day that the Penn State community attended a memorial service at the Bryce Jordan Center for legendary former football coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday, the 18th-ranked Lady Lions stayed perfect as road warriors in the Big Ten Conference, beating Michigan 77-56 in Ann Arbor to go 4-0 away from home for the first time in the conference since 1993-94.
Penn State (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) sizzled from the field, shooting 56.1 percent as Maggie Lucas, the graduate of Germantown Academy from Narberth, Pa., outside Philadelphia, scored 23 points – the 11th time this season she has scored 20 or more points.
Alex Bentley, the preseason conference player of the year, scored 18 points against the Wolverines (16-5, 5-3).
Penn State, the preseason favorite, is tied with Nebraska (17-3, 6-2) for third place a game behind Ohio State (20-1, 7-1) and two behind Purdue (18-3, 8-0).
On Sunday, Penn State visits Michigan State, who fell at home to Illinois 72-62 in overtime to fall to 12-9 overall and 4-4 in the conference.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, No. 13 Purdue got a career-high 29 points from Courtney Moser in an 80-70 road win at Northwestern (12-9, 2-6) in Evanston, Ill.
No. 19 Nebraska beat visiting Iowa 60-53 at home in Lincoln as the Cornhuskers got 22 points and 15 rebounds from Jordan Hooper in the win over the Hawkeyes (11-10, 3-5).
No. 9 Ohio State got all of Tayler Hill’s 18 points in the second half as the Buckeyes rallied on the road to beat Indiana 73-55 and drop the Hoosiers to 5-16 overall and 0-8 in the conference despite Aulani Sinclair’s career-high 27 points.Virginia Tech Shocks Maryland
The No. 7 Terrapins were taken down 75-69 by the Hokies (7-14, 3-5 ACC) in the Comcast Center in College Park, Md., as Montel Tellier tied a career-high 31 points in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Maryland (18-3, 5-3), which now trails front running and fifth-ranked Duke by three games in the ACC, got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Lynetta Kizer, 19 points from Laurin Mincy, and 18 from Tianna Hawkins.
Terrapins coach Brenda Frese said the absence of leading scorer Alyssa Thomas, who was recuperating from a sprained left thumb, was no excuse for the upset.
“I’m mostly disappointed,” Frese said. “I really like coaching this team. I think this team has a lot of great parts to it. I think as young players, it’s important for them to understand the big picture.”
That situation is the Terrapins probably said adios to remaining in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
As far as missing Thomas, Frese noted, “We also have a lot of talented players in the locker room that should be able to step up in her absence.”
Maryland next hosts Boston College (5-15, 0-7) next Thursday.
In the only other ACC game on the books, No. 10 Miami (18-3, 7-1) grabbed a 64-39 win at home in Coral Gables, Fla., over Wake Forest (12-8, 2-5) to stay a game behind Duke as Stefanie Yderstrom and Riquana Williams each scored 14 points.Vandy Gets Dandy Win Over Georgia
Christina Foggie had a career-high 34 points as Vanderbilt (15-5, 3-4), which just fell out of the Associated Press women’s poll, upset No. 17 Georgia 68-48 at home in a Southeastern Conference game in Nashville, Tenn.
Anne Marie Armstrong had 15 points for Georgia (16-5, 5-3).
Elsewhere in the SEC, No. 6 Kentucky (19-2, 8-0) stayed unbeaten in conference play as A’dia Mathies scored 20 points in a 66-48 road win at Auburn (10-11, 2-6).
No. 7 Tennessee (15-5, 6-1) recovered from Monday night’s 72-44 drubbing at No. 2 Notre Dame in a nonconference confrontation to beat host Alabama 86-56 in Tuscaloosa as Shekinna Stricklen had 14 points and Glory Johnson scored 13 in the win over the Crimson Tide (10-11, 0-7) to stay a game behind Kentucky.
Markeshia Grant scored 20 points in a 61-43 win by South Carolina (16-5, 5-3) at home in Columbia over Mississippi (12-9, 2-6).Still Playing Perfect
Top-ranked Baylor and No. 12 Wisconsin-Green Bay stayed unbeaten with respective conference wins.
The Bears (20-0, 7-0) of the Big 12 got 18 points and seven blocked shots from Brittney Griner in an 89-58 road win at Oklahoma (12-6, 4-3), which got 19 points from Whitney Hand in Norman.
Julie Wojta scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half as Wisconsin-Green Bay (18-0, 7-0) scored a road win in the Horizon League over host Butler (7-12, 3-5) in Indianapolis.
In the only other game involving a ranked team, Stephanie Golden came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points for No. 22 Gonzaga (18-3, 7-1) in a 79-61 home win in Spokane, Wash., over Loyola Marymount (5-15, 1-7).Quakers Return To Ivies
In the only area Division I game on the card Friday night Penn returns to finish out its season with Ivy League games only as Columbia visits the Palestra at 7 p.m.CACC Race Tightens
Philadelphia University and Holy Family both suffered losses in Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference games to tighten the Southern Division race.
In East Falls, though Stephanie Agger became the 27th player to reach 1,000 points for the Rams, they fell at home in overtime to Georgian Court 83-80 in the Gallagher Center.
Agger, who joined teammate Christine Wooding this season in the 1,000-point club, scored 19 points for the Rams (14-5, 8-2) while Goldey Beacom (12-6, 7-4) got 14 points and 11 rebounds from guard Ashley Rosario in snapping Philadelphia U.’s six-game win streak.
Meanwhile, University of the Sciences at home at the Bobby Morgan Arena in Southwest Philadelphia, beat Holy Family 65-53 for the Devils’ fourth straight win.
USP (11-7, 7-3 CACC) posted its first win over the Tigers (13-7, 9-2) in a regular season home game since a narrow 60-59 win on Feb. 7, 1995, though the Devils also beat Holy Family at home in a conference tournament game in 2006.
The Devils moved to with a game of first place, where Holy Family and Philadelphia U. are tied.
Freshman Brianne Traub had 16 points for USP, Carolyn Edwards and Jessica Sylvester each scored 13 points, and Becca Ruggear had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Isabella Ross pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Erin Mann scored 15 points for Holy Family as the only Tigers star in double figures.Noteworthy
Carolyn Sprague, Pittsburgh’s longtime senior women’s administrator who also served on the NCAA women’s basketball tournament committee, is set to retire at the end of the school year.
As part of the reorganization, Stacey Brann, the sports information director for women’s basketball who moved to the Steel City from Rutgers last season where she was the press aide among other activities for Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, will be promoted to assistant athletic director for women’s basketball, though Boss Brann will also retain her SID duties.
Some conspiracy theorists jokingly thought the announcement was timed for Brann to steal the thunder from the news at her former place of employment which learned Thursday that football coach Gregg Schiano had been named the new coach of Tampa Bay in the NFL.
Elsewhere, longtime Bowling Green women’s basketball coach Curt Miller will miss Saturday’s game at Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference after a medical diagnosis Thursday determined he suffered a mild stroke late in Sunday’s win over Eastern Michigan.
Miller’s return has not been determined, though he said in a statement, “This is a wake-up call for me and I have already begun the process of finding a healthier balance.”
Jennifer Roos, associate head coach will run the team, which is 16-3 overall and 6-0 in the MAC.
“Our first priority is Curt’s health,” athletic director Greg Christopher, said in a statement. “Although he has been cleared to continue coaching, we all felt it was best to take a step back right now. We fully expect Curt to return to the bench, soon.”
Christopher is also the new head of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament committee this season and is also the first male head since the organization began sponsoring the championships in 1981-82.
And that’s it for now until tweeting from the Penn game Friday night.-- Mel