NEWARK, Del. -- The University of Delaware women's basketball team survived and advanced to the next round Sunday afternoon as the No. 15 Blue Hens defeated West Virginia University, 66-53, in front of a boisterous sold-out Bob Carpenter Center in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
The win was a school-record 26th straight for UD, the third longest active winning streak behind Baylor (30) and Notre Dame (26). The Blue Hens also tied their highest win total in history with 31. Delaware (31-3) advances to the round of 32 for the second consecutive year.
Delaware will play the winner of (3) North Carolina/(14) Albany Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"We are thrilled to come to the NCAA Tournament, and to win a game in front of our home crowd was totally electric," commented Delaware head coach Tina Martin. "The community has meant so much to our team and it was a great win today."
Senior All-American Elena Delle Donne put up a game-high 33 points in addition to seven rebounds and four blocked shots. The forward eclipsed the 1,000 career rebound mark in the second half, becoming just the fourth Delaware women's basketball player to reach this mark. Classmate Danielle Parker surpassed the total earlier this season. The game marked the sixth time this season Delle Donne put up 30-plus points this season.
Delle Donne also moved into 10th all-time in NCAA Division I Women's Basketball history with 2,973 career points. Mississippi State's LaToya Thomas (2003) sits in ninth place with 2,981 career points.
"This atmosphere was actually better than I could have imagined," Delle Donne, a Wilmington, Del. native remarked regarding her hometown crowd. "Our fans were awesome, theyreally were like a sixth man today."
Junior Kelsey Buchanan (at left) also came up big for Delaware, tying a career-high of 10 points and bringing down five rebounds.
"Kelsey was here to play today," stated Martin. "She was really ready to play mentally and I told the coaches not to take her off the floor. Evening the rebounding out was important and that's why she played so much."
Parker contributed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Blue Hens in addition to six points, four steals and an assist.
"Danielle Parker was huge and hit some shots we needed off the baseline," said Martin. "Our kids hit big shots when they needed to hit big shots and our kids got big rebounds when they needed to get big rebounds."
Delaware, down 33-26 at halftime after trailing the majority of the first half, came out of the break on a 7-0 run and would never look back as the Hens took a 35-33 advantage over the Mountaineers.
Due to a 21-15 deficit on the boards in the first half, Martin switched the defense up in the second, which proved to be the turning point in the game.
"They had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and we felt we had to go bigger," Martin commented. "The zone could help us go bigger and we play our zone much like our man-to-man. It was the only thing I could think to do - put our big three out front."
Delaware finished the game with an advantage in the rebounding column by a margin of 36-33. The Hens also contributed 21 second chance points to just seven for WVU.
The Mountaineers (17-14) were led by Ayana Dunning's double double of 15 points and 10 rebounds while Taylor Palmer and Linda Stepney added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
"I'm proud of our players," West Virginia head coach Mike Carey remarked. "Delaware went a little bit bigger the second half and just killed us. I think the difference int he game was when they went big in the second half, that was smart on their part."
Tuesday's Second Round contest held at the Bob Carpenter Center is also a sell-out. The game will be broadcast nationally via one of the ESPN network channels.