No. 24 Delaware Jumps Out to 14-0 Lead, Hands Princeton First Loss of Season with 81-70 Victory; Delle Donne Nets 32 for Hens
File Photo Courtesy of Mark Campbell
PRINCETON, N.J. -- If the University of Delaware women’s basketball squad needed to justify its newly-earned No. 24 national ranking Thursday night, the Blue Hens put any doubts of their worthiness to rest early.
The red-hot Blue Hens (5-0), ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school history, remained undefeated as they jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game and never looked back in posting an 81-70- non-league victory over previously unbeaten Princeton at Jadwin Gym.
All-American Elena Delle Donne (at right), who entered the game as the nation’s leading scorer with 30.3 points per game, poured in 32 points to go with nine rebounds and five blocks, the Blue Hen backcourt duo of Trumae Lucas and Akeema Richards combined for 22 points, and Danielle Parker added a solid 11 points.
“We have a good thing going right now,” said Delaware head coach Tina Martin, whose squad avenged a 68-50 loss to Princeton last season which ended the Hens’ perfect 5-0 start. “We have a pretty good basketball team and we just want to get better.”
Delle Donne knocked down 13 of 19 shots from the field, hit 1 of 2 three-pointers, and was a perfect 5 for 5 from the line to post her ninth straight 20-point plus effort the the 17th 30-point performance in just her 56th career game.
The Hens, who knocked down 33 of 53 shots from the field for a season-high 62.3 percent mark, jumped out to a 46-28 lead and never looked back in posting the win. Delaware is now 5-0 for the second straight year and for just the third time in school history, joining the 1992-93 and 2010-11 squads.
Princeton (6-1), among the top teams also receiving votes in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, had matched its best start in school history, tying 6-0 marks established in 1974-75 and 1977-78. The Tigers had their school-record 26-game home win streak at Jadwin snapped, falling for the first time at home since a 60-50 setback to Rutgers back on Dec. 5, 2009. Princeton lost for just the ninth time in its last 70 games overall.
Lauren Edwards scored a team-high 23 points, including four three-pointers, for Princeton while leading scorer Niveen Rasheed added 20 points and Nicole Hung chipped in with 11 points.
Delaware came out on fire as each of the five starters - Delle Donne, Parker, Richards, Lucas, and Lauren Carr - scored a point in the first five minutes of play on the way to the 14-0 start. Princeton eased back into the game and cut the lead to 24-18 with 8:30 left in the opening half, but the Hens the reeled off 14 straight points to take a 38-18 lead. Delle Donne scored seven points during the run while Lucas added five points, including a deep three-pointer.
“We played a great game in the first half,” said Martin. “We came out focused and were clicking on all cylinders. We were aggressive, we were making shots, and we were sharing the ball. And Elena made some incredible shots. Defensively we were doing a nice job on Rasheed and were making them rush their shots. This was the best half we played all year. This win was a big statement for our program.”
Lucas, a first-year transfer from Florida, enjoyed one of her best games in her short career at Delaware. She knocked down 5 of 8 shot from the field, pulled three rebounds, dished out three assists, and made three steals.
“Everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing,” said Lucas of the early first-half effort. “We were focused. I couldn’t believe we were blowing a great team like Princeton out of their own gym.”
After Delaware took a 46-26 lead at halftime, Princeton battled back and held the lead to under 15 for most of the stanza. However, the Tigers could never get closer than 10 points at 80-70 on a layup from Rasheed in the final minute.
“This win was really a confidence booster,” said Delle Donne, when asked about what it meant to handle Princeton. “We still have a lot to work on. We will learn as the season goes on that we can be a great team and we shouldn’t be surprised to beat a great team like Princeton. I think in the back of our heads we were feeling a little pressure (because of the Top 25 ranking) because we know teams will be coming after us. This is a big win going forward for us.”
The Blue Hens will return home to the Bob Carpenter Center for a pair of games this weekend as Delaware hosts William & Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association opener Sunday at 2 p.m. and follows that with a non-league matchup vs. Yale the next day at 7 p.m.
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