UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – The seventh-ranked and top-seeded University of Delaware women’s basketball team used a balanced effort and a dominating first half to roll past fifth-seed UNCW 66-39 Saturday afternoon and moved one step closer to capturing its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title.
The Blue Hens (29-1), who extended their school record for wins and extended their school-record win streak to 19 games, will face longtime rival Drexel in the championship game Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at The Show Place Arena. No. 3 seed Drexel (18-12) advanced with a 67-50 semifinal upset win over No. 2 James Madison Saturday.
Tickets remain for the game and can be purchased at the gate prior to the game. The game will also be televised live throughout the Mid-Atlantic region on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Comcast SportsNet North East, The Comcast Network – Philadelphia, and Comcast Sports Southeast. The game can also be viewed on-line on ESPN3 and can be heard live on the Blue Hen Radio Network on 94.7 WDSD FM as well as on the UD student station WVUD 91.3 FM.
For more information, go to the University of Delaware athletics website at www.bluehens.com.
Delaware put three players in double figures and knocked the Seahawks out of the tournament in the CAA semifinal game for the second year in a row. The Blue Hens shot 51.9 percent from the field (18 of 35), shooting over 50 percent for the fourth consecutive game, while holding the Seahawks to just 25 percent (15 of 60). UNCW had scored 94 points in 94-87 quarterfinal victory over No. 4 seed Hofstra Saturday.
“We’re on a mission,” said Delaware head coach Tina Martin, the CAA Coach of the Year. “We really want to get this. It has been one of our goals all season long. After the ball went up today, I knew we were focused. We’re playing for a championship here. We have one more game, so we just want to keep it going. These ladies are amazing, and if things go okay, hopefully we’ll get a championship tomorrow.”
The winner will receive an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with the field set to be announced Monday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Delaware is expected to receive a bid to the 64-team regardless of Sunday's outcome.
The Blue Hens also advanced to the CAA Tournament championship game in 2003, 2005, and 2010 but lost each time, falling to Old Dominion the first two seasons and to James Madison last year by a 67-61 score. Drexel won its only CAA championship game appearance when the Dragons defeated James Madison in the 2009 title game. Delaware swept the Dragons this year, winning 60-49 in January in Newark, Del. and escaping with a last-second 40-39 win on Feb. 19 in Philadelphia.
Junior All-American Elena Delle Donne (bottom right) again led the way for the Blue Hens Saturday with 15 points, seven boards, and three blocks despite playing a season-low 18 minutes. Akeema Richards (top right) was the second Blue Hen in double figures with 13 points to go with seven boards, while sophomore Kesley Buchanan (bottom left) scored a career-high 10 points off the bench. The Hens shared the ball well with 14 assists, including a game-high four helpers from Kayla Miller.
“We have been here before and we drew confidence from that,” stated Delle Donne, the nation’s leading scorer with 28.3 points per game, regarding the team's championship game appearance Sunday. “This whole season has been in preparation for tomorrow’s game.”
The Seahawks (20-12) had two players in double figures, led by Tawanna Lee with 14 points and Alisha Andrews with 11. UNCW had just three assists on the day, all from Karneshia Henderson.
All-CAA junior Lauren Carra, who leads the Hens in three-pointers this season, set off a dominating first half for Delaware by knocking down a three to get things rolling early.
Only two Seahawks found success from the floor in the beginning half, as UNCW converted just 4 of 28 field goals. UNCW’s 13 first half points were the second lowest total in CAA Championship history for a half, surpassing only 12-point outputs from Towson in 2007 and VCU in 2012.
The Hens, who shot 51.4 percent (18 of 35) from the floor in the first half, took an early 13-7 lead at the first media timeout. Delaware dished out helpers on 10 first-half field goals.
UNCW misfired on 16 straight field goal attempts over a nine-minute span as the Hens embarked on a 12-2 run to build a commanding 26-10 lead with 8:02 to go.
A Lee layup ended the drought for the Seahawks, followed shortly by a Trice jumper at the 7:47 mark. That would be the last basket UNCW would convert for the remainder of the first half as the Hens reeled off 16 straight points and took a 42-13 halftime advantage.
The Hens remained focused in the second period, strengthening their largest lead of the day to 32 with 11:51 to play. A 9-1 UNCW run featuring three consecutive three-pointers brought the Seahawks to within 24 points, but that would be the closest they would get the rest of the day.
The victory was the Hens’ fifth straight over the Seahawks and third this season. Last year, the seventh-seeded Hens upset No. 3 UNCW, 63-47, to advance to the championship game.