HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- After struggling in the last two wins, Elena Delle Donne and Delaware were thrilled to put together a complete game against Hofstra. Clinching the regular-season conference crown in the process was just an added bonus.
Delle Donne scored 32 points to help No. 18 Delaware beat Hofstra 79-50 on Thursday night for its 20th straight victory."We're excited to get a really solid game under our belt and more happy with getting a really good win right now," Delle Donne said. "We wanted to clean a few things up."The Blue Hens (25-3, 16-0 Colonial Athletic Association) barely beat James Madison on Sunday 61-60. That came after a 14-point win over George Mason, which is second to last in the conference.Trailing Hofstra by four with 5 minutes left in the first half, Delaware took over. The Blue Hens scored 13 of the last 15 points to end the half and then the first 12 of the second half to put the game away.Delaware held Hofstra without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes spanning the halves until Candace Bond hit a 3-pointer with 12:07 left to make it 55-36."We didn't start the second half very well," Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. "The decisions we were making were poor."The Blue Hens have now won 35 straight in the conference, which is tied for the second longest streak in the nation with Florida Gulf Coast. Top-ranked Baylor holds the nation's longest active conference streak with 38 consecutive Big 12 victories.Bond's 14 points led Hofstra (12-15, 8-8), which has dropped four straight games.Delle Donne, who is the nation's second-leading scorer averaging just over 25 points, had 20 in the first half and moved into a tie for 16th place on the all-time NCAA scoring list with Ohio State great Jantel Lavender.Delle Donne now has 2,818 points. At the pace she's on, she would need eight more games to become the ninth player to reach 3,000 points. Delaware has two more regular-season games and the Blue Hens would have three in the CAA tournament if they make the finals.The Blue Hens are also hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.Delle Donne has missed 22 games in her career. She sat out six games earlier this season with a reoccurrence of the symptoms of Lyme disease that forced her to miss a dozen games two seasons ago. The 6-foot-5 star, who is averaging 27 points in her career, would definitely have made a strong run at Jackie Stiles' all-time scoring mark of 3,393 points (Southwest Missouri State, 1998-2001) had she been healthy.She was too much for Hofstra which has lost the last four meetings to Delaware."They have Delle Donne, that's the big difference," said Shante Evans, who added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Pride. "She's such a big presence on the court."The Pride came out strong, taking a 10-2 lead on the Blue Hens in the game's first four minutes. Then Delle Donne took over. She kept Delaware in the game early, scoring the team's first 12 points despite Hofstra constantly having two defenders on her."We came out a little slow," Delle Donne said. "It's how we played the prior two games. Defensively we weren't doing well at the beginning. I was getting some openings to keep us in the game. I knew people like Trumae (Lucas) and Danielle (parker) would step up."The Pride opened up a 30-26 lead on Andreana Thomas' 3-pointer with 5:14 left in the half. Lucas scored the next nine points for Delaware, which closed the half on a 13-2 run to take a 39-32 lead at the break.Lucas finished with 13 points.Delle Donne added a fifth conference record to her growing list of achievements. She broke a tie with Tiffany Benson, who played at William & Mary, for blocked shots when she recorded her 256th in the first half.---Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg