Mike Carey’s basketball squad snatched defeat from the jaws of victory today, falling to Elena Delle Donne and the Delaware Blue Hens 66-53 in the opening round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
The Mountaineers, in the face of a sold out home crowd for the Blue Hens, built an early lead behind superb team shooting (43.8% in the first half). WVU also did an excellent job of containing star player Delle Donne in the opening period, holding her to 13 points.
West Virginia went into the locker room with a 33-26 advantage and halfway to pulling the upset of #6 seed Delaware to snap their 25 game winning streak.
Then the wheels came off.
Delaware abandoned their man coverage defense and moved to a 2-3 zone scheme in the second half. The zone coverage, combined with a taller, longer line-up, clogged up the passing lanes for the Mountaineers and forced WVU into poor turnovers.
The Blue Hens rallied in the second half to pour on 40 points against West Virginia. 20 of Delaware’s second half points came off the hands of Delle Donne who found her stroke early in the second half and had her way with Ayana Dunning in the paint.
Dunning still put together an impressive performance with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but was unable to contain Delaware’s star player for 40 minutes. Dunning would foul out in the final minute of play, highlighting the Mountaineers struggles with fouls in this contest, especially in the second half.
“It is too bad. They went 2-3 and a little bit bigger in the second half and it hurt us,” Mike Carey explained. “The 16 offensive rebounds just killed us and we didn’t do a good job of boxing out. Then they went 2-3 on the other side and we didn’t do a good job executing. It was different in both halves. First half, we didn’t put Delle Donne on the foul line and in the second half, she had 13 foul shots. This is the tale of two halves. Give them credit, they went to a zone and we didn’t execute against it.”
WVU sent Delaware to the line 22 times with Delaware converting 19 of those attempts. In contrast, WVU only attempted 6 free throws, scoring 5 of them. The free throw discrepancy is easily the difference in the outcome of this came.
West Virginia’s valiant upset defeat is still an excellent effort in the face of a hyped up home crowd. The fact that the Mountaineers were able to take a lead into halftime and stay competitive well into the second half is a testament to the Mountaineers team play and drive to succeed.
Unfortunately, WVU was over-matched by the one woman wrecking crew known as Elena Delle Donne.
For a complete box score and post-game quotes, visit wvusports.com