Commentary

Instant Analysis: Blue Hens advance

Originally Published: March 26, 2013
By Graham Hays | espnW

NEWARK, Del. -- Elena Delle Donne is going back to Connecticut.

She might be taking most of the state of Delaware with her this time.

On a raucous night inside the Bob Carpenter Center, with even the country's vice president standing and pleading for a foul call at one point, No. 6 seed Delaware rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to beat No. 3 seed North Carolina 78-69.

Delaware advances to the Sweet 16 in Bridgeport, Conn., and will face No. 2 seed Kentucky, with a possible regional final against Connecticut, the school Delle Donne famously left to return home, looming beyond that.

[+] EnlargeElena Delle Donne
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsDelaware's Elena Delle Donne tries to get through North Carolina's double-team of Krista Gross (21) and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (44).

Much more to come from Newark soon, but some quick thoughts:

Getting physical: North Carolina came out in the first half playing aggressive, physical defense against Delle Donne. It worked for a time. Delaware's star was bumped off positions and took a pounding. But the whistles that soon followed piled up on North Carolina. Unstoppable in the first half, Waltiea Rolle was barely seen in the second half and fouled out too early, one of countless Tar Heels in foul trouble. All told, Delaware attempted 32 free throws.

Early scare: The ball was at the far end of the court at one point in the first half, but just about every eye in the building was looking the other way as Delle Donne lay on the court getting treatment on what appeared to be a right leg injury. She briefly disappeared behind the bleachers, then reappeared and went to the scorer's table. She never left the court again. She might have hit just 10 of 28 field goals, but Delle Donne absorbed all the punishment the Tar Heels could offer and finished with 33 points and eight rebounds in an All-American effort.

The Trumae Show: Delle Donne is not the only Delaware player with a major conference pedigree, and Florida transfer Trumae Lucas was absolutely as good Tuesday night as any player North Carolina had to offer -- maybe even as good as her celebrated teammate. Lucas finished with 20 points, 4 assists and 4 steals. More than numbers, she was solid as a rock as the Blue Hens made their run in the middle stages of the second half.

Offensive rebounding: There is a reason Delaware ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in rebounding this season, and it's not just because the Blue Hens piled up numbers against smaller mid-major opponents. Not all that large themselves beyond their 6-foot-5 superstar, they are an extremely good offensive rebounding team. The final tally this night was 20 offensive rebounds and 23 second-chance points.

Behind the curtain: Delaware coach Tina Martin loves to talk about how much more than one player her team is -- perhaps to excess at times. There's nothing wrong with admitting just how special that one player is. But Martin is right, too. And she's part of the reason she's right. Martin is a really good basketball coach. In both the first and second round, her team came out of halftime and made the necessary adjustments to correct first-half weak spots. Notably, North Carolina hit five 3-pointers in the first half. Delaware's zone adjusted, and the Tar Heels hit just two in the second half.

No place like home: The atmosphere inside the Bob Carpenter Center, so good in the first round Sunday, was even better this night. At points in the second half, it was impossible from ground level to hear the public address announcer from across the court. North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said Sunday her team knew what it was in for after playing at Duke. No, it didn't. Long after the game, huge swaths of fans remained, just standing and smiling.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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