NEWARK, Del. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team had its season come to a close Sunday afternoon with a 66-53 loss to No. 15/16 Delaware in the first round of the 2013 NCAA women’s basketball tournament at the Bob Carpenter Center.
“First of all, I am proud of our players. With all the injuries and all the stuff going on, a lot of people would probably think I was in there yelling at them, but I wouldn’t. I was in there praising them,” coach Mike Carey said. “Yaya (Ayana) Dunning is a great student-athlete. She already has her degree and is going to get her master’s at the end of this year and we are very proud of that.”
The Mountaineers (17-14) held the nation’s second-leading scorer Elena Delle Donne to 13 first-half points on 6-of-11 shooting, but the Blue Hens (31-3) came out shooting, using a 40-point second half, including 20 points from Delle Donne, to seal the win.
“What happened is we didn’t do a good job with her. 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 because they don’t push it. 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. I thought to me that was the biggest difference in the second half,” Carey explained. “When we started pressing and trapping a little bit, in the rotation she ended up on a smaller guard and took advantage of that. We didn’t do a good job on the rotation.”
WVU came out of a 33-26 halftime lead cold. The Mountaineers were held without a field goal for almost eight minutes, while Delaware went on a 17-6 run down to the 11:53 mark, for a 40-36 lead. Christal Caldwell hit a three to make it a one-point game, but Delaware responded with eight consecutive points. Linda Stepney paused the run with a three, but again, the Blue Hens never let up, with a 15-8 run down to the buzzer.
Delle Donne led all players with 33 points on 10-of-24 attempts and 12-of-13 from the free throw line. All 12 of Delle Donne’s free throw attempts came in the closing half.
“It is too bad. They went 2-3 and a little bit bigger in the second half and it hurt us,” 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.”
The Blue Hens held WVU to only seven second-half field goals. The Mountaineers finished the game shooting 38.9 percent (21-54) from the field, while Delaware was 39.7 percent (23-58) from the field, with only two more field goals. UD had the advantage from the free throw line, converting 19-of-22 (86.4%), while WVU recorded only five points from the line in six attempts.
The game was a tight contest from the tip with three ties until WVU took its first lead on a Christal Caldwell layup at the 15:34 mark. Neither team could pull away by more than four points, which the Mountaineers did on four occasions, until a three from Taylor Palmer followed by a quick layup from Linda Stepney with under a minute in the half allowed the Mountaineers a seven-point lead at the break.
In her final game as a Mountaineer, Ayana Dunning was one of three players in double figures and finished the game with a double-double of15 points and 10 rebounds. Palmer and Stepney were the only other Mountaineers in double figures and posted 13 and 10 points, respectively. Caldwell chipped in nine points, while three others added two.
Behind Delle Donne, Kelsey Buchanan was the only other Delaware player in double figures with 10 points, while also pulling down five boards. Season-leading rebounder Danielle Parker finished with a game-high 11 boards to help the Blue Hens to a 36-33 rebounding advantage over WVU. Delle Donne added seven rebounds and four blocks, while Parker grabbed four steals.
Delaware entered the game with fourth-lowest turnover average in the nation and proved to take care of the ball as it had only nine giveaways to the Mountaineers’ 17.
The Mountaineers closed out the 2012-13 season with a 17-14 record.