NEWARK, DE 3/3/2013 – It seems that it is predetermined that the games between the Drexel Dragons and the Delaware Blue Hens will come down to the last-minute. This was no exception. The teams battled point for point down the stretch. The leading scorer for each team matched each other point for point as Drexel senior guard Hollie Mershon scored 26 points and Delaware senior forward Elena Della Donne had 28 points. In the end # 18 Delaware was able to hold off a Drexel rally and earned a 62 – 57 victory at the Bob Carpenter Complex. The Dragons erased a 12 point lead by the Blue Hens in the last five minutes. Drexel had a late opportunity, but Mershon did not covert a layup and Delle Donne converted two free throws to thwart the rally.
“You have to find a way to win a game like that,” said Drexel Coach Denise Dillon. In wasn’t in the last three minutes when we lost it, it was the minutes in the middle of the second half that we went into a lull. Against this team (Delaware) you have to have a lead, you can’t try and come back and tie it up and try to get up two.”
“I feel like it’s the same story,” said Mershon. “Down the stretch we’re down a couple of points and we struggle to just finish.”
Delaware tried for an early knockout getting an early 11 – 2 lead. Drexel regrouped and battled back from a 15 – 9 deficit limiting Delaware to only three more field goals before halftime, two by Delle Donne, but trailed 26 – 25 at halftime. In the second half Drexel had difficulty scoring getting one basket in five and a half minutes. Delaware took a 52 – 40 lead on a Delle Donne jumper with 5:53 to play. Delle Donne and senior guard Lauren Carra were the only Blue Hens to score in the run. The pair scored all but two points for Delaware from early in the first half to that point.
From there Mershon and freshman guard Rachel Pearson began to find the range from beyond the arc. Pearson had three from deep and Mershon found the range twice to tie the game at 57 with 1:20 to play. Drexel used a 14 – 2 run to erase the deficit. Carra made two free throws to give the lead back to the Blue Hens at 59 – 57 with under a minute on the clock. Delaware appeared to have an opportunity to take control as Carra came up with a steal, but she was called for a travel giving the ball back to Drexel with 33 seconds to play. Mershon took the ball to the basket, but her shot was bothered by Delle Donne who was fouled on the rebound.
“We finally got a stop,” said Delle Donne about the last defensive possessions. “You can’t double their shooters, they’re just too good. We had to guard it straight-up.”
“My length helps a lot.”
Delle Donne made two free throws to make it a two-possession game. Mershon put up a jumper that was off the mark. Drexel got the rebound but could not capitalize. Carra, who scored 21 points, made a free throw with 4 seconds to play to end the scoring.
Rebounds were a key as Delaware had a 42 – 29 edge on the glass, 16 – 9 on the offensive end. That propelled the Blue Hens to a 17 – 5 advantage in Second Chance Points. Delle Donne had 10 rebounds, 4 offensive, giving her a double-double the 8th of the season for the senior. Drexel had a 9 – 5 edge in made three-point shots. Mershon and Pearson each had three. The 26 point effort by Mershon was the most scored by a Delaware opponent this season.
Drexel is 20 – 7 this season and have a 13 – 3 record in the CAA. The Dragons are a game behind James Madison for second place in the conference, and those teams will meet on Wednesday with the two seed at stake at the DAC. Delaware is still unbeaten in league play, and go for a second undefeated conference season on Wednesday at home against Georgia State.
“This team is extremely resilient,” Dillon said about her squad. “We were outmatched in a number of positions size-wise. They are so coachable. You just want to see them rewarded.”
Drexel comes away with another close loss, their sixth straight against Delaware. The Dragons were disappointed, but it strenghtens their resolve to get a championship. That chance will come in March.
“Our goal in the beginning was to win a championship,” Mershon said. “We haven’t experienced that. It is something that we are definitely hungry for.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian