Blue Hens Battle Tough But Suffer First Setback of the Season in 85-76 Loss to #5 Maryland
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Few teams have played the fifth-ranked University of Maryland women’s basketball team any tougher than the University of Delaware did at the Comcast Center Thursday night.
But that was only a little consolation for the No. 19 ranked Blue Hens (10-1) as Delaware suffered its first setback of the season, dropping a tightly-fought 85-76 decision to a Terrapin team that, along with Delaware, was among only nine NCAA Division I teams still without a loss.
Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne (at right) was nearly unstoppable in the second half and finished with 32 points, but the Hens could never quite catch up to the hot-shooting Terrapins and saw their perfect season suffer its first blemish in the championship game of the Terrapin Classic.
“I’m really proud of our team,” said Delaware head coach Tina Martin, whose team’s 10-0 start was the best in school history. “I thought they really battled hard tonight. There is no shame in losing to a top five team in the country. To hang with them and be able to play and compete and to come rolling back and stay in it at halftime being only down by one obviously shows this team is playing with a lot of heart right now. Maryland is a top five team in the country and they are very, very good at home. You play the percentages, you try to do what you can do.”
The Blue Hens, who were playing their second Top 20 foe this season after downing then No. 11 Penn State 80-71 back on Nov. 17, fought back from double-digit deficits several times during the night, but could never gain the lead after taking a 46-45 lead three minutes into the second half. Delaware narrowed the gap to 79-73 on two free throws by Delle Donne with 3:45 left to play but could never get any closer.
Maryland (13-0), which entered the game as the top field goal shooting team in the country, proved why as the Terps knocked down 7 of 12 three-pointers and connected on 30 of 61 shots from the field to keep the Hens at bay. At one point early in the second half, the Terps connected on 12 of 17 shots from the field. Maryland was Delaware’s highest ranked opponent since the Terps, then ranked No. 3 nationally, posted a 91-43 win on Nov. 13, 2007 at the Comcast Center.
The Terrapins, who also came in as one of the nation’s top offensive teams, averaging 85.0 points per game (third in the NCAA) and a 28.0 point per game winning margin (fourth in the NCAA), had won every game this season by double digits except for a 74-65 win over Michigan back on Nov. 30.
Guard Laurin Mincy led the Terps with 25 points on 7 of 12 shooting from the field while tournament Most Valuable Player Alyssa Thomas added 23 points and pulled nine rebounds and Anjale Barrett contributed 16 points and eight assists. Mincy and Barrett were also named to the All-Tournament team.
Delle Donne, who entered the game as the nation’s leading scorer at 28.5 points per game, netted 24 points in the second half and also finished with a team-high seven rebounds. The 6-5 junior, who was named to the All-Tournament team, surpassed the 30-point mark for the fifth time this season and eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the 16th straight game.
But it was a balanced effort for the Blue Hens, who also got 14 points from guard Trumae Lucas (at left), 10 points off the bench from guard Jocelyn Bailey, and nine points from guard Lauren Carra. The Hens hit a respectable 24 of 56 shots from the field (42.9 percent) and connected on 5 of 15 three-pointers but were also nearly perfect from the foul line, hitting 23 of 25, including a 10 for 10 performance from Delle Donne.
“In the first half I wasn’t attacking enough,” said Delle Donne. “My teammates kept me in the game in the first half. We were right in the game and they kept patting me on the back and telling me to take the next shot. It got me back into the swing of things and made me believe that I could hit the next shot.”
The Hens took a 44-41 lead two minutes into the second half on a jumper by Danielle Parker and still led 46-45 after Akeema Richards knocked down a shot in the lane with 16:50 left.
But Maryland responded with an 11-0 run, thanks to seven points from Mincy, and grabbed the lead for good at 56-46 with 13:47 remaining. The Terrapins pushed the lead to 14 points at 69-56 with 8:41 left and built their biggest advantage to 15 points at 78-63 after a Barrett three-pointer with five minutes left.
As they had done all night, the Blue Hens fought back again. Lucas came right back with a three-pointer and Delle Donne followed with two free throws and a three-pointer of her own to cut the gap to 78-71 with 4:16 remaining and Delle Donne knocked down two more from the charity stripe 31 seconds later to cut the deficit to 79-73 with 3:45 left.
But the Hens could never get closer as Barrett hit a jumper and later drained two free throws to preserve the win.
The first half looked every bit the Top 20 matchup that it was with the Terps taking a slim 39-38 lead at the break thanks to a torrid 17 points from forward Alyssa Thomas.
Maryland grabbed a couple of eight-point leads in the first 10 minutes of action and built the margin to 10 when Thomas’ three-point play with 4:14 remaining upped the margin to double digits at 37-27.
But the Hens took over from there as Bailey sparked Delaware to an 11-0 run that resulted in UD’s first lead of the night at 38-37 with 55 seconds remaining. Bailey opened the run with a three-point play and later hit two free throws and Delle Donne connected on two free throws and added a layup. Bailey’s layup gave the Hens the one-point margin before Maryland regained the lead on a put-back by Whitney Bays with 20 seconds left.
The Hens went into halftime behind for just the second time this season. Delaware trailed 35-32 at the half against Penn State on Nov. 17 but rallied to down the No. 11 Nittany Lions 80-71.
In the consolation game of the tournament held Thursday, Lafayette rebounded from an opening day loss to Maryland to post a 64-57 win over East Carolina. Lafayette (5-8) got 26 points and 12 rebounds from Emily Homan while East Carolina (6-6), which fell to Delaware 60-40 in the first round Thursday, got 14 points from Chareya Smith. Homan was named the fifth member of the All-Tournament team.
Delaware will return to action Jan. 5 when the Hens resume Colonial Athletic Association action by hosting Towson at 7 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center.
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