Elena Delle Donne could have been an upper-echelon player for Connecticut, the defending NCAA champion in women's basketball. But she transferred closer to home for family reasons, and now she's in the midst of a dream season for Delaware.
The 6-5 redshirt freshman has been a nightmare to defend, and yesterday, Hofstra tried its hand. And arms. And bodies.
Delle Donne's performance might have been predictable - she entered the game as the fourth-leading scorer in the nation with a 25.3 average - but the result still was upsetting to the Pride as Delle Donne scorched the home team by scoring 35 points in Delaware's 71-65 victory. Delaware improved to 12-6, 4-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Hofstra is 10-9, 3-4.
"We were a little star-struck for some reason. I didn't understand that," Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Knowing all about Delle Donne's resume, including that she once was considered the top recruit in the country, didn't help come game time.
"I knew about her. I know she's a good shooter," Hofstra freshman forward Shante Evans said. "I could have defended her way better than I did."
At five inches shorter, not likely.
Delle Donne sizzled in the first half, scoring 16 points, including two three-pointers, as Delaware took a 35-25 lead. But a lull by Delle Donne and her teammates in the second half enabled Hofstra to close within 39-37 with 12:36 remaining. Delle Donne quickly came to the rescue with two straight three-pointers from the top of the key. Hofstra could not seriously threaten after that.
Delle Donne had been shut out after halftime before her pair of treys but still scored 19 in the half. "I needed to get myself back in the game," she said. "I was touching the ball but not being aggressive enough. I thought to myself, 'I have to really get back in this game, because we're about to lose it here.' "
She also had seven rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Kilburn-Steveskey still thought Hofstra could have done a better job defending Delle Donne, saying: "She definitely had more points than what we bargained for tonight. We didn't man-up [on defense] and I'm a little bent with that."
Hofstra received good scoring from its frontcourt with Jess Fuller totaling 17, Evans 16 and Marie Malone 11. Guard Nicole Capurso had 12. But it was clear the team was weary of keeping an eye on Delle Donne. And contributions from freshman Lauren Carra (10 points) and sophomore Jasmine Gibson (six points) rankled Hofstra. "If those folks don't have those buckets, you are in the game, too," Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Notes & quotes: Delaware guard Tesia Harris, sister of Half Hollow Hills West High School star Tobias Harris, was sidelined with an ankle sprain. Harris is Delaware's second-leading scorer with an average of 12.2 points.