NEWARK, Del. -- March Madness has officially sprung uponthe Bob Carpenter Center as the University of Delaware hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship.
The No. 6 seeded Blue Hens (30-3) will open play Sunday at 12:15 p.m. against the No. 11 seeded West Virginia University Mountaineers (17-13).
Delaware hosted a press conference Saturday morning followed by a closed team practice.
“First of all, we are thrilled to be back in the NCAA Tournament,” stated Delaware head coach Tina Martin (at top right), who is in her 17th season with the Hens. “I also want to welcome the other teams to the tournament. We are really looking forward to the game tomorrow and we will be playing a very good West Virginia team.”
Following the UD game, the No. 3 seeded University of North Carolina Tar Heels (28-6) will play the No. 14 seeded Albany Great Danes (27-3). Tip-off is slated for approximately 2:30 p.m.
“The Bob Carpenter Center is agreat venue for women’s basketball,” Martin commented. “We are hoping to put on a really good show for the people who come here tomorrow. To have the tournament here is a gift and a treat for our fans. The community and fans at Delaware have been incredible. I want our fans to experience this just like our team.”
Senior Lauren Carra (at left) echoed Martin’s sentiments about playing at the “Bob.”
“The team was excited when we found out that we could be playing here,” Carra noted. “We took our season one game at a time. We also took things one goal at a time and getting back here was one of those goals.”
The Blue Hens, who won their second straight Colonial Athletic Association Championship last weekend, are making their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Delaware picked up its first NCAA Tournament victory in school history with a 73-42 win over the University of Arkansas – Little Rock.
“It’s great coming into the tournament with a group of veterans,” remarked UD senior forwardElena Delle Donne (at bottom left). “Last year, we were shocked walking into the environment. This year we have that experience and age to work with.”
Delle Donne, a three-time CAA Player of the Year and two-time All-American, leads the team with an average of 25.3 points and 8.5 points per contest. Fellow senior Lauren Carra is second on the team at a clip of 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while Danielle Parker puts up an average of 8.8 points and 9.5 boards.
West Virginia is making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and sixth in the last seven seasons. The Mountaineers lost in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals to Oklahoma, 65-64. They are led on-court by Christal Caldwell and Ayanna Dunning. Caldwell puts up 13.2 pointsper game while Dunning averages 10.0 per contest. Dunning also leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game.
WVU is known for its pressure defense as it has forced nearly 600 turnovers this season.
“I definitely think they have a great defense,” Delle Donne said. “They like to pressure teams a lot, so we have to get past that pressure and get into our offense. Hopefully, we can use their aggressiveness against them and possibly get them into foul trouble.”
With a victory over the Mountaineers, Delaware will face off against the winner of the matchup of UNC and Albany at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Tickets for all three games are sold out, but each will be featured regionally on ESPN2 in addition to online at ESPN3.com/Watch ESPN. Pam Ward (play-by-play) and Rebecca Lobo (color analyst) will have the call for the broadcast.