UNC Wilmington falls to No. 7 Delaware 66-39

DAVID GINSBURG AP Sports Writer Published:

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) -- The strain of playing three games in three days proved to be too much for UNC Wilmington in the semifinal round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

That, and the difficulty of going up against a Delaware team that was simply too fast, too tall and too talented.

Again.

UNC Wilmington made only four baskets in the first half on 14 percent shooting and lost 66-39 to the seventh-ranked Blue Hens on Saturday. It was the third time this season that UNCW lost to Delaware, but in this one there was an additional obstacle: fatigue.

After beating Georgia State on Thursday, the Seahawks raced past Hofstra 94-87 on Friday. In the latter game, UNCW scored 51 points before halftime.

Against Delaware, shot after shot either clanged off the rim or hit nothing but air. The Seahawks (20-12) went 4 for 28 from the field in the first half and trailed 42-13 at the break.

"At the end of the day, three games in three days is tough to overcome," UNCW coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. "Some of those 3-pointers we knocked down yesterday were just a little bit short today. You miss a couple, then you start thinking, 'Hey, I'm tired.' I just thought we got off to a rough start, and that worked against us mentally."

Alisha Andrews, the team's leading scorer, went 0 for 9 from the floor in the first half and finished 4 for 16. Tawanna Lee scored 13 for the Seahawks, who did not have a single player make half her shots.

"We just were never really in this game," Cooper-Dyke conceded.

It was the school-record 19th straight victory for the Blue Hens (29-1), who took charge in the opening minutes and never let up.

"We were tired more than anything," Lee said. "Our shots weren't going in early, and we got mentally drained. We just couldn't put the pieces together and overcome it.

Cooper-Dyke took consolation in what happened before this game.

"I'm very, very proud of us getting to this point," she said. "We won 20 games. It's not like we should be holding our heads down. We played extremely well (against Hofstra), and hopefully that's what we'll all remember."

Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne, the nation's leading scorer, shot 5 for 12 from the field and finished with 15 points -- well below her 28-point average. But the 6-foot-5 junior logged only 18 minutes due to the lopsided score and because the Blue Hens will be playing their third game in three days on Sunday, when they vie for the school's first CAA tournament championship.

Delaware will next face Drexel, which defeated James Madison in Saturday's other semifinal game. The Blue Hens, who lost in the final round in 2003, 2005 and 2011, are undefeated in league play this season.

"We're on a mission," Delaware coach Tina Martin said. "We really want to get this. This has been one of our goals, and we've got one more game. That's what we came here for."

Akeema Richards scored 13 for the Blue Hens, whose only loss this season was at No. 5 Maryland on the road on Dec. 29.

After taking a 5-3 lead, UNCW missed 16 straight field-goal tries in falling behind 22-8. At that point, Delle Donne had more points (nine) than the Seahawks.

A driving layup by Lee finally ended UNCW's drought with 9:33 left in the half. Delaware then went on a 20-2 run in which seven different players scored.

Delle Donne took a seat on the bench in the midst of the barrage and stayed there over the final five minutes.

She started the second half, contributed a pair of baskets and sat down for good after six minutes of work. Delaware held a 51-21 lead with 14 minutes left, and soon after that Martin called upon her reserves to finish up the rout.