By Mel Greenberg
Just before redshirt-freshman sensation Ellena Delle Donne suffered a right ankle sprain in the closing minutes of Delaware's win over Houston at Colorado State a week ago the rose was blooming quite nicely on coach Tina Martin's efforts to make the Blue Hens a well-oiled machine.
Without the 2008 high school national player of the year in the lineup, Delaware (3-3) went on to suffer two straight losses.
All that quickly became a thing of the past Saturday afternoon as the former start of Wilmington's Ursuiline Academy returned to action and the Blue Hens grabbed a 70-61 win at the Maryland-Baltimore County.
Martin waited to see how the 6-5 versatile guard-forward responded at the morning shootaround and then declared Delle Donne would start.
Less than two minutes into the game she nailed a three-pointer and stayed on the court for all but one minute as Delaware quickly returned to the form the Blue Hens were showing prior to her injury.
Delle Donne's statistics showed 20 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots, four assists and four turnovers. She shot 7-for-11 from the field, including 2 of 3 on three-point attempts.
More impressive against UMBC (4-3) was Delaware's ability to land three other players scoring in double figures. Tesia Harris had 15 points, Lauren Carra had 14, and Jocelyn Bailey had 11.
It's the first time Delaware has had four players produce a double-digit scoring achievement since a win over Virginia Commonwealth in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in March of 2007.
Needless to say, Martin was quite enthused afterwards, based on her quotes provided by the University of Delaware's game story.
“I felt really good about the win this afternoon,” she said.. “We needed this ‘W’ to get our kids’ confidence back up. Now we head to Maine before finally opening at home on Dec. 11 -- our team’s very excited.
“Tonight was the first we faced the box-in-one and I think we handled it very well. I thought Elena played strong, she looked good and I subbed her when I thought she need it. Same with Lauren .
“We had four in double figures. It has been awhile since we’ve done that. It’s a really good step for us. I’m thrilled. That’s what good teams do, they pass the ball and spread the wealth,” Martin added.
The Blue Hens head to play at Maine Tuesday and then finally get to their home opener against Navy Friday night.
La Salle will visit Sunday.
Martin will have plenty of time to get ready for the CAA after the Explorers visit because of finals and the holidays.
Buffalo visits on Dec. 22 followed by an appearance by Massachusetts on Dec. 30. The Blue Hens will then welcome the New Year by launching CAA play at home Jan. 3 against perennial cntender Old Dominion.