Delle Donne scores when it counts as Delaware edges Drexel

Elena Delle Donne leans in to take game-winning 15-foot shot as Delaware nips Drexel,40-39.
Elena Delle Donne leans in to take game-winning 15-foot shot as Delaware nips Drexel,40-39. (Photos: DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 20, 2012

THE DREXEL women's team was on the verge of upsetting No. 10 Delaware, due in no small part to the job it did defensively on Blue Hens standout Elena Delle Donne.

Delle Donne, who entered the game as the nation's leading scorer at 28.8 points per game, had missed 15 of her first 18 shots.

Unfortunately for the Lady Dragons, she made her 19th shot with 2 seconds left to lift the visiting Blue Hens to a 40-39 victory and clinch the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title.

"I guess I had to make one tonight, so I'm glad it was that one," said Delle Donne, who split several defenders on the 15-foot shot from the wing.

Delaware is 24-1, 15-0 in the CAA. Drexel is 13-12, 9-6.

"You want to put the ball in your best player's hands," Delaward coach Tina Martin said, "and me being the smart one, I said, 'Let's get the ball in Elena's hands' and let her make the decision. I think everybody in this gym knew that the ball was trying to go to Elena."

Drexel's defense kept the Blue Hens in check for most of the game, but they were able to win despite shooting 24.6 percent. Delle Donne, who finished 4-for-19, scored a career-low 12 points. She had 14 rebounds.

"[Delle Donne] was taking a lot more shots inside the paint and with our zone, it enables you to always have two people around her when she catches the ball," Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. "With the other players, you're forcing them to be part of the offense as opposed to using man-to-man when they can set screens and get people open.

"We did execute our plan on the defensive end, but we couldn't take advantage."

It was a slow first half as Drexel and Delaware combined for six points through the first 10 minutes. Delle Donne went 2-for-10 from the floor, but made her presence known on the glass with eight rebounds. Drexel's leading scorer, Kamile Nacickaite, went 1-for-8, which included going 0-for-7 from three-point range.

Lauren Carra's two threes and a 22-16 rebounding advantage allowed the Blue Hens to take a 20-11 lead at halftime. That deficit shrunk as Drexel opened the second half with Tyler Hale scoring eight of her team-high 10 points.

Another player who aided the comeback was Hollie Mershon. The Archbishop Carroll High graduate went 0-for-6 in the first half, but scored eight points in the final 4 minutes, giving the Lady Dragons the lead until the final seconds.

"Literally, every play had contact," Martin said. "There were people that were being tackled out of bounds over here, people going out of bounds over there. It's become almost regular in our games, which is unfortunate because basketball is a different game when it's allowed to be that physical. If that's the way it's going to be, then you have to be on the tougher end of it."

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