Delle Donne’s double-double lifts No. 8 DelawareWednesday, Feb 29, 2012
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP)—Elena Delle Donne is happy to be in her current position, though there’s still more she wants Delaware to accomplish this season.
Delle Donne had 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead the eighth-ranked Blue Hens to a 79-53 victory over William and Mary on Wednesday night. Danielle Parker and Lauren Carra each added 14 points as Delaware (27-1, 18-0 Colonial Athletic Association) became the first team to finish undefeated in the conference since Old Dominion in 2001-02.
“It’s very satisfying,” Delle Donne said. “It’s definitely one of those things we wanted to accomplish this season and we’re very excited about it. We’re going to enjoy it for a little bit, but we have way bigger things to handle. Coach says it a lot—anyone can start something, but champions finish.”
In this case, Delle Donne and Delaware coach Tina Martin were referring to the CAA tournament, which begins March 8. Delaware’s last conference loss was a 67-61 defeat to James Madison in the conference tournament championship game last March 13.
The tournament champion receives an automatic NCAA tournament berth, though the Blue Hens, whose only loss this season came at No. 6 Maryland, 85-76, on Dec. 29, are unlikely to have to worry about that.
“We made some history,” Martin said. “Going 18-0 is extremely difficult to do in this league. I knew this team had the potential to be very good, but no, I wouldn’t have thought that, because of the competition we face day in and day out.”
Delaware shot 52 percent (33 for 64) from the field. Delle Donne, who came in tops in the nation in scoring at 28.3 points per game and 28th in shooting at 52.4 percent, was 9 for 15.
Janine Aldridge scored 15 points to lead William and Mary (10-19, 3-15), which shot 36 percent (21 for 59).
Delle Donne had 12 points in the firsth half as the Blue Hens led by 13 at halftime.
“The strategy is to limit her touches, make her take difficult shots, and hope everybody else doesn’t score,” William and Mary coach Debbie Taylor said. “We tried to guard her with two people every time she put the ball on the floor and just contain her as much as we could, which worked for a little while.”
The Tribe pulled within 10 early in the second half before Delle Donne made a layup to spark a decisive 10-2 run.
The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne, who also ranks 15th in the country with 10.4 rebounds per game, had a scholarship offer from North Carolina in the eighth grade and won the Naismith Award as a high school senior. She committed to play at Connecticut, but her stay in Storrs lasted just two days before she returned home to Wilmington, Del., in the summer of 2008.
Closer to home and to her family, including her older sister, Lizzie, who was born deaf, blind and with cerebral palsy, Delle Donne enrolled at Delaware that fall. After a stint on the volleyball team, she joined the Blue Hens’ basketball team for the 2009-10 season.
She averaged 26.7 points as a freshman and 25.3 points as a sophomore. In last August’s World University Games, she had 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the United State’s 101-66 gold-medal victory against Taiwan.
“This season, I’ve definitely allowed the game to just come to me and flow, whereas in prior years I might have forced it a little more,” Delle Donne said. “I have so much trust in my teammates. They’re all phenomenal players and they step up. If I’m getting double- and tripled-teamed, I know they’re going to hit their shots.”
Already Delaware’s all-time leading scorer, Delle Donne came into Wednesday’s game fifth in CAA history with 2,096 career points, sixth with 187 career blocks and third with 545 free throws made. She scored a school-record 54 points at James Madison in 2010, and her 26.9 point-per-game average is 9.2 points higher than the next-closest Blue Hen.
“I think it definitely helps Elena that we’re not like everyone else,” said Parker, who was 7 for 10 from the floor against the Tribe. “We treat her like a normal person. She’s a superstar, but we’re not like, `Oh, my gosh, Elena. She can do this.’ We treat her as our teammate.”
Against William and Mary, she drew an immediate double-team each time she touched the ball. She didn’t attempt her first shot until missing a 3-pointer with 13:30 left in the first half, but she got her own rebound for a putback to give the Blue Hens a 10-9 lead, and her 3 increased the margin to 15-11.
Della Donne’s two free throws with 6 minutes left in the first half gave Delaware its first double-digit lead at 28-17, and her 3-pointer put the Blue Hens up 37-20.
She made another 3 with 7:37 to play that pushed Delaware’s lead to 21, and her three-point play with 5:45 remaining pushed the score to 70-45. She took a seat on the bench after making the free throw for her final point.