he second time is even sweeter.
It wasn’t an easy victory by any stretch, but the University of Delaware
women’s basketball squad got what it came for Sunday afternoon as the
No. 15 ranked Blue Hens claimed their second straight Colonial Athletic
Association Tournament title with a hard-fought 59-56 victory over
Drexel at The Show Place Arena.
The top-seeded Blue Hens (30-3) completed their second straight perfect
season through the CAA as they extended their school-record season win
streak to 25 straight games, upped their overall win streak to 42
straight over conference opponents, and clinched their second straight
All-American Elena Delle Donne, who scored 21 points each in the Hens’
quarterfinal and semifinal wins earlier in the week, captured her second
straight CAA Tournament Most Valuable Player Award as she scored 28
points and pulled five rebounds to lead the Blue Hens. Trumae Lucas was
just as important as she came off the bench to add 12 points and earn
her spot on the All-Tournament team. Lauren Carra pulled down a
team-high 10 points and dished out six assists while Kayla Miller handed
out five assists herself.
“When the buzzer sounded, I was the happiest person in the United States
of America,” said Delaware head coach Tina Martin, who has now led her
teams to three conference tournament titles and four NCAA Tournament
appearances. “We’ve worked so hard for this and it’s incredibly hard to
go undefeated two years back to back. I’m so thankful to be a champion
Just as they had done two weeks ago in a 62-57 win over Drexel, Delaware
had to work hard for the victory as the Blue Hens needed two free throws
each from Delle Donne and Lucas in the final 44 seconds to clinch the
win. The Hens managed just one field goal over the final seven minutes
of action as Drexel (22-10) rallied back from a 17-point second half
deficit by using a 24-7 run to take the lead at 56-55 with 1:07 left.
But Lucas hit her two free throws with 44 seconds left to give the Hens
the lead for good and Delle Donne knocked down the deciding shots with
just nine seconds left. Drexel failed to score in its final two
possessions as Abby Redick was called for traveling with 19 seconds left
and Hollie Mershon turned the ball over in the final seconds, setting
off a wild celebration on the court that included many of the partisan
Blue Hen crowd.
“I stepped up to the line and was confident that I was going to knock
them down,”said Lucas of her clutch free throws. “My teammates were 100
percent behind me. I didn’t think about the fact that I needed to put us
back in the lead, I went up there and shot them like normal free throws.”
Drexel, which fell to Delaware in the title game for the second straight
year, got 21 points from Taylor Wootton, including 12 points from
three-point range, and 18 from Mershon in the loss. Mershon also dished
out nine assists and drained three pointers. The Dragons, who fell to
Delaware for the seventh straight time, knocked down 10 three-pointers
in 25 attempts during the game, including seven in the second half as
part of their comeback.
The Blue Hens now head to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight
year and will host first and second round games at the Bob Carpenter
Center on March 24-26. The 64-team NCAA Tournament field will be
announced on Monday night, March 18, at 7 p.m.
Drexel scored the game’s first basket but the Hens reeled off 13 of the
next 15 to take a 13-5 lead and led the rest of the way. Drexel used a
late seven-point run, with six coming from Mershon, to cut the lead to
28-27, but the Hens went into intermission up 30-27 when Miller
rebounded a missed three-pointer by Lucas and hit a layup right before
The Blue Hens used that momentum in a big way in the second half as they
came flying out of the gates, scoring the first 11 points of the frame,
including five from Delle Donne, and held Drexel scoreless for the first
4:22 to take their biggest up to that point at 41-27.
Delaware later upped the lead to 17 points at 46-29 on a Delle Donne
drive and still led 48-32 after two Delle Donne free throws with 12:50
But the Dragons caught fire from there as they reeled off 13 straight
points, including two three-pointers by Wootton, to narrow the deficit
to 48-45. Delle Donne snapped a string of over seven minutes without a
field goal for Delaware with a bank shot with 7:19 left but Merson
answered with a three-pointer to pull Drexel to within 50-48.
Delaware’s Akeema Richards hustled to make a steal at midcourt and
converted it into a three-point play with 6:17 remaining to extend the
Delaware lead to 53-48, but Drexel again answered the call as Mershon
hit a three-pointer and Wootton followed with a jumper to tie the score
at 53-53 with 1:52 left. After Delle Donne knocked down two free throws
to give Delaware the lead back, Drexel gained its first advantage since
2-0 when Wooton buried a three-pointer for a 56-55 Drexel advantage with
Delaware then grabbed the lead for good as Lucas calmly drained two free
throws with 44 seconds left and the Hens got the ball back when Redick
got caught in a crowd in the lane and traveled while looking to pass.
Delle Donne then iced the win with her two free throws at the
Drexel had one last chance to tie but Mershon turned the ball over with
four seconds left with Lucas picking up the steal.