PHILADELPHIA, Pa. 2/19/2012 – A jump shot by Delaware Blue Hens forward Elena Delle Donne with 2 seconds remaining in the game proved to be the difference as #10/9 Delaware defeated the Drexel Dragons 40 – 39 at a sold out DAC. Much like their previous game the Dragons over came a slow start and staged a furious rally to take a 39 – 38 lead with 1:38 on a jump shot by guard Hollie Mershon. However, Drexel was not able to put the game away setting the stage for Delle Donne’s heroics.
“This is something you need to capitalize on earlier,” said Drexel Coach Denise Dillon about the game changing end. “I told the team (Drexel) they did everything possible on the defensive end, and never rewarded themselves on the offensive end. That was a tough one. We got some looks on offense and usually make them. I am not basing this loss off the last couple of minutes. We knew Delle Donne was going to get the ball to take the last shot. You hope to take care of business when you needed to, and we didn’t.”
Drexel got off to a terrible start offensively. They trailed 20 – 11 at halftime masking only 4 of 23 field goal attempts (17.4%) and just 1 of 12 three-point shots. Delaware did not fare much better making 8 of 27 (29.6%) and 2 of 6 from beyond the arc. Delle Donne was 2 – 10 at that point. It was clear that defense and toughness would decide the game.
In the second half the tempo picked up for Drexel as they made 11 of 24 shots (45.8%) and held Delaware to 6 of 30. Drexel kept grinding away until finally taking a 34 – 32 lead on a traditional three-point play by Mershon. Delle Donne made a three to allow the Blue Hens to regain the lead. Mershon responded with a three as Drexel went ahead 37 – 35 with 3:14 on the clock. Mershon broke the tie at 37 setting up the end of the game.
Delle Donne was fouled with 25.7 seconds to play. She made the first, but missed the second. Drexel held a 39 – 38 edge. Delaware was forced to foul. Drexel Senior forward Kamile Nacickaite went to the foul line with a one and one at the 18.4 second mark. The shot was no good. Delaware called timeout to set up the their final offensive possession.
“Coach Martin drew up the play,” said Delle Donne. “We knew it was going to me. I ended up getting the ball, the clock was running down, and I did a ball fake and a step back to try and get myself open somehow. I threw it up there, and it went in.”
“We had ample opportunities, many opportunities, but didn’t take advantage of them,” said Dillon. “We did all we could to take the lead, then fell asleep one possession.
Senior forward Tyler Hale led Drexel with 10 points, Nacickaite scored 6 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. Mershon had 8 points and 6 assists. All of her points were scored in the last 4:05 of the game. Drexel made 15 of 47 shots (31.9%) and 3 of 20 from distance.
Delle Donne scored 12 points for Delaware making 4 of 19 shots, but she did make the most important field goal for the Blue Hens. Delle Donne also took down a game-high 14 rebounds. Forward Danielle Parker also scored 12 points. Delaware out-rebounded Drexel 43 – 36, 22 – 12 on the offensive boards.
Delaware keeps its perfect record in the CAA as they improve to 15 – 0. The Blue Hens clinched the top seed in the CAA Tournament. Their 25 – 1 record is the best in program history.
“Nothing was going our way or my way, but we pulled it out,” said Delle Donne. “Good teams do that, and this is definitely our gut check of the season so far. I’m thrilled to get the win.
Drexel is 9 – 6 in conference. They hang on to the fourth place in the CAA. Drexel takes on William and Mary on February 23. It will be a test of the resiliency of the Drexel team.
“We have no choice,” said Dillon. “I told the team where we are in the standings, and that we want to get the bye. We have a lot of season ahead in order to take advantage of the opportunity with the bye and that starts on Thursday night.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian