NEWARK. Del. — Elena Delle Donne scored 33 points in an All-American performance and fifth-seeded Delaware’s defense locked down West Virginia during the second half of a 66-53 win Sunday in the NCAA women’s tournament.
West Virginia (17-14) led 33-26 at the midway point before being outscored 40-20 by the Blue Hens (31-3) in the second half, when Delle Donne scored 20 points. The 6-foot-5 senior went 12-of-13 from the foul line in the final 20 minutes.
“We didn’t do a good job with her,” said WVU coach Mike Carey. “We started pressing and we had our smaller guards matched up on her on a rotation in the press. We kept telling people to switch it and switch it back. There was about five times in the second half we did not switch it back for a four to be on her and she just drove and shot over the top of us.”
The first NCAA tournament game played in Delaware drew a sellout crowd of 4,532 fans, energizing the Hens on their home court.
“This atmosphere was actually better than I could have imagined,” said Delle Donne, a Wilmington, Del. native. “Our fans were awesome. They really were like a sixth man today.”
Added Delaware coach Tina Martin, whose team will aim for its first Sweet 16 appearance on Tuesday. “To win a game in front of our home crowd was totally electric.”
Ayana Dunning had 15 points and 10 rebounds for 11th-seeded West Virginia, which closed the season with a four-game losing streak.
Taylor Palmer scored 13 points for the Mountaineers, while Linda Stepney added 10 and Christal Caldwell nine.
WVU came out of halftime cold, going almost eight minutes without a field goal, while Delaware went on a 17-6 run for a 40-36 lead. Caldwell hit a 3 to make it a one-point game, but Delaware responded with eight unanswered points. Stepney paused the run with another 3, but the Blue Hens went on another 15-8 surge.
West Virginia went 7-of-22 from the floor after halftime and committed 11 turnovers.
“They went 2-3 (zone) and a little bit bigger in the second half and it hurt us,” Carey said. “Give them credit, they went to a zone and we didn’t execute against it.”