Delle Donne lifts No. 10 Delaware over Drexel

DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer Published:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Elena Delle Donne's leaner from the wing with 2 seconds left lifted No. 10 Delaware to a thrilling 40-39 victory over Drexel on Sunday and clinched the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title.

The Blue Hens (24-1, 15-0), who won their only previous CAA title in 2004-05, have 14 straight victories since their lone loss of the season to then-No. 5 Maryland.

Trailing 39-38 with 16 seconds left, the nation's leading scorer caught the ball at the top of the key and dribbled to the right wing. She faked out the three people guarding her and leaned in to hit the 15-footer.

Kelly Mershon's 35-footer at the buzzer fell short.

Delle Donne finished with 12 points -- well below her 28.8 average. She also had 14 rebounds, but made only 4 of her 19 shots.

Tyler Hale scored 10 points to lead the Dragons (13-12, 9-6). They rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to take a 39-37 lead on Kelly Mershon's lay-in with 1:38 left.

Delle Donne had a chance to tie the game with 25 seconds left, but the 90 percent free throw shooter could only convert one of two free throws as her second attempt rolled out.

Delaware fouled Kamile Nacickaite 9 seconds later, but the 86 percent free throw shooter missed the front end of the one and one giving the Blue Hens another chance.

Trailing 24-14 early in the second half, Drexel rallied behind Hale. The senior forward had six points during a 12-4 run to get the Dragons to 28-26 with 13:11 left. Neither team hit a basket over the next 6 minutes. Hale's lay-in kept Drexel within two.

Mershon's three-point play with 4:05 left gave Drexel a 34-32 lead -- it's first since early in the game.

Delle Donne answered with a 3-pointer to end Delaware's 10-minute drought without a field goal.

Mershon, who missed her first nine shots before her three-point play, connected on a 3-pointer to make it 37-35 with 3:14 left. After Lauren Carra's lay-in tied it with 1:59 left.

The game got off to a very slow start as the two teams combined for only six points in the first 10 minutes. Delaware missed 13 of its first 14 shots while Drexel wasn't much better hitting just two of its first 11.

Danielle Parker finally ended a nearly 10-minute scoring drought for the Blue Hens, beating the shot clock with a jumper from the top of the key that sat on the rim before dropping in. That basket started a 12-3 run over the next 5 minutes for Delaware. Carra hit two 3-pointers during the burst and Delle Donne had two lay-ins, including one that made it 14-7 with 4:47 left in the half.

The Blue Hens extended their advantage to 20-11 at the break. Delle Donne, who was held to 21 points in the previous win over Drexel, missed eight of her 10 shots in the first half. The Blue Hens were just 8 for 27 as a team.

Drexel converted only four of its 23 shots as leading scorers Kamile Nacickaite and Hollie Mershon missed 13 of their 14 attempts.

It was the second straight game that Drexel struggled in the first half. The Dragons trailed Old Dominion 27-13 at the break on Thursday before rallying for a 53-45 win. They just fell a couple of seconds short against Delaware.

That victory was coach Denise Dillon's 145th at Drexel, giving her the most in school history. Drexel presented her with flowers before the game. Former coach Lil Haas, who won 144 games from 1982-93, was on hand for the celebration.