If I wrote the word defense on this page 3000 times, it would be a pretty accurate depiction of what this UK team has to do to win their games. When all else fails, defense. When you need a break away basket, defense. When you need to get past one of the most prolific scorers in the game, defense. Kentucky did just that, and they put Delaware on the defensive end of a lot of hard nosed play and great hustle.
Elena Delle Donne is an amazing talent. Top 5 all-time scorer in NCAA history. The most well-rounded Women's player in the game. She will be an unbelievable talent at the next level. But alone, she was not enough to take out Kentucky.
Matthew Mitchell had a great game plan. The only time that Kentucky got in trouble was when he tried to out think his own plan. Mitchell put A'Dia Mathies on Elena Delle Donne to defend her one-on-one in the paint. Colossal fail. Fortunately Mitchell realized it and started running another guard in low to harass her into having to play against two instead of one. When that happened, the pieces started falling back in-line.
Kentucky blew a 12 point lead and allowed Delaware to cut it to 2 before the Cats finally got their footing righted. Combining Delle Donne's performance with the announcers drooling all over their microphones for Elena's gifts, the second half was almost more than a Kentucky fan could stand. Thankfully, A'Dia Mathies & Co. were not yet ready to call it a season. Free throw shooting late in the game allowed UK to not waste a huge 3-point shot by Kastine Evans who got the lead back to 5 and then UK settled down.
It was a game of transitions thoughout and I am not talking offensive possessions. Had Delle Donne's team not waken up and joined the party in the second half, this game would have been over with 15 minutes to go. They did, however, and they came close to pulling it off. Had Delaware been able to get Delle Donne hitting from outside, they would have done it. Jelleah Sidney, though, decided to make her game a lot more difficult. She got in Elena's face, into her dribble, and in her passing lanes, forcing her into turnovers, bad passes and off-balance shots. It was the difference in the game.
Delaware's foul troubles caught up with them as well, as two of their starters and the other two-thirds of their scoring fouled out in the last two minutes of the game, and they could not compensate for the loss.
Game ball goes to Jennifer O'Neill as she put up 19 pts and had 4 assists. However, I want to make an honorable mention to DeNesha Stallworth, Samarie Walker, A'Zia Bishop, Jelleah Sidney, and even A'Dia Mathies. They rotated off and on to defend Delle Donne and handled her as best as they could. More importantly, they did it without forgetting to defend the rest of Delaware's squad.
In the end, balance and hard work kept UK from losing this game, no matter how hard the referees worked to make it look otherwise. Big win and the Cats are in their third Elite Eight in four years. Kentucky awaits the winner of the UConn-Maryland game.
Job well done.