Delaware Women Looking for Berth in NCAA Sweet 16 as #7 Blue Hens Take on Kansas Tonight on ESPN2
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The University of Delaware women's basketball game has already made history. Now the Blue Hens want even more.
When the No. 7 ranked Blue Hens take the court tonight in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the UALR's Jack Stephens Center, Delaware will be chasing history again.
The No. 3 seed Blue Hens (31-1), who have won 21 straight games, will take on No. 11 seed Kansas (20-12) at 9:40 p.m (ET) tonight with the winner earning a berth in next weekend's NCAA Sweet 16 in Des Moines, Iowa. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
A watch party for all Blue Hen fans is planned at Grotto's Pizza on Main Street in Newark.
A win for Delaware would be the team's first Sweet 16 appearance.
The opponent? None other than No. 2 seed Tennessee, one of the most storied programs in the history of collegiate athletics. The Vols advanced with a 63-48 win over DePaul Monday night.
But as the Hens have done all year, all eyes are focused on the task at hand tonight, the Big 12's University of Kansas.
"This is a level-headed group that has been through a lot," said Delaware head coach Tina Martin, the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year who won her first NCAA Tournament game in three tries with Sunday night's 73-42 victory over host and No. 14 seed UALR. "They understand how precious this game is and they are not taking anything for granted. They should enjoy this, but they really want to win. They want this continue because this is the ride of a lifetime."
Delaware will once again be led by All-American and National Player of the Year candidate Elena Delle Donne. Delle Donne gained even more national attention with her outstanding effort Sunday night as she scored 39 points - just five shy of the NCAA 1st/2nd Round record - and pulled down 11 rebounds. And she didn't even play the last eight minutes as the Hens pulled away early in the second half.
Delle Donne was the subject of numerous highlights on ESPN Sports Center, talked about on sports talk shows across the country, and even NBA star current Kevin Durant tweeted that he saw her game and liked what he saw. She will also be featured on tonight's ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer.
"We are very excited about all the attention after that first game and we are letting it soak in," said Delle Donne, who leads the nation in scoring at 27.9 points per game and averages 10.3 rebounds per game. "But we are focused. We want to win basketball games and that is all that matters."
Defeating Kansas will certainly be a tough task as the Hens take on a squad, that despite a lower seed, comes from a powerful conference.
The Jayhawks lost some key players to injuries and struggled late in the season, losing six of their last eight games, but pulled the upset in their first round game Sunday night, knocking off No. 6 seed Nebraska 57-49. Among the wins by Kansas this season were victories over Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
Delaware and Kansas did have one common opponent this year as both downed Wake Forest 70-57 on Dec. 11 with the Hens winning and Kansas coming out victorious 74-73 on Nov. 20.
The Jayhawks feature of the nation's top guards in 5-4 junior Angel Goodrich (13.3 points per game, 238 assists) as well as outstanding post player Aishah Sutherland (13.8 ppg, 8.9 rebounds per game). Sutherland poured in a game-high 20 points and dished out five assists vs. Nebraska.
"Kansas is very athletic and I think they are starting to play their best basketball," said Martin, who has known KU head coach Bonnie Henrickson for nearly 20 years. "Goodrich is as good of a point guard that I have seen all season and they can rebound the ball like crazy. We won't stop Kansas but we have to contain them when we are on defense and get good looks on offense. They have athletes at a different level than we see every day. This is a major challenge for a mid-major team to play a team from a big conference. This should be a heck of a ballgame. If we play smart and pick our spots, we can be successful."
"Our non-league schedule has prepared us for this," said Delaware All-CAA guard Lauren Carra of a schedule that included wins over NCAA Tournament participants Penn State and St. Bonaventure. "Goodrich is a great guard and we have to keep her out of the lane. We should be ready."
Carra is Delaware's second leading scorer (10.3 points per game) and three-point shooter (50) while junior forward Danielle Parker (8.7 ppg/7.5 rpg) leads the inside game.
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