Drexel women fall to No. 7 Delaware 59-43

DAVID GINSBURG AP Sports Writer Published:

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) -- After sticking with No. 7 Delaware for the opening 20 minutes, Drexel appeared capable of pulling off a huge upset in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship game.

Unfortunately for the Dragons, the cold shooting they displayed before halftime carried into the second half.

Not so for Delaware.

Elena Delle Donne had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and the Blue Hens used a strong second half to earn a 59-43 victory Sunday and its first CAA title.

Despite making only seven field goals in the first half, Drexel trailed only 20-16. Drexel hounded Delle Donne in the lane and forced her into 4-for-12 shooting.

The second half, however, was entirely different.

"Sadly, we remained cold," Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. "They took advantage. They got some quick buckets and we weren't knocking down all the shots we needed to stay in it."

The first half resembled last month's game between the teams that Delaware won 40-39. But the Blue Hens (30-1) got their transition game going after halftime and ended up cruising to their third win against the Dragons (18-13) this season.

"Defensively, we got some rebounds and got out and ran," Delaware coach Tina Martin said. "Once we can run, we get in our comfort zone and our offense just kind of rolls after that."

Kamile Nacickaite led Drexel with 16 points. The Dragons shot 30 percent, went 6 for 23 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 43-23.

"We just got beat by a great team," Dillon said.

A great team with a very special player.

"Elena's tremendous," Dillon said. "You can't take anything away from what she's capable of doing. She makes everyone around her great."

Dillon took consolation in a late-season run that enabled Drexel to earn a first-round bye in the tournament before reaching the finals.

"I'm more than proud of our girls, of what they accomplished," she said. "About three weeks ago they set a goal to control our own destiny and get into the top-four spot (in the standings). We came up with those wins. We came into the tournament with a goal of facing Delaware again. We did what was necessary."

Until the second half.

After missing 21 of 30 shots from the field in the first half, Delaware began the second half with a 12-5 run to go up 32-21. Delle Donne hit a 14-footer and a 3-pointer to fuel the surge.

It was 36-27 before Blue Hens guard Lauren Carra connected from beyond the arc and Delle Donne made a layup for a 14-point lead. After Tyler Hale made two foul shots for Drexel, Delle Donne and Carra each made two at the line to make it 45-29 with 8:13 remaining.

At that point, the only remaining suspense was which net the Blue Hens would begin cutting down to celebrate their coveted first CAA title.

"This is just everything we've been working for," Delle Donne said.

Delle Donne hit the court more times than she connected from it during a rugged first half in which the teams combined for only 16 field goals. Delle Donne was often knocked off her feet vying for position underneath the Blue Hens' basket.

Although Drexel held Delle Donne without a shot in the opening 5 minutes, the Blue Hens got points from three players in bolting to an 8-2 lead. The Dragons then found their shooting touch and used a 9-2 run to move in front for the first time.

A 3-pointer by Drexel's Fiona Flanagan made it 14-12 with 10:19 left in the half, but the Dragons didn't score again until Nacickaite hit a jumper as the shot clock expired with 1:17 remaining. Despite the dry spell, Drexel kept it close with a defense that jammed the lane and paid close attention to Delle Donne.