|Maryland's Alyssa Thomas, left, and Delaware's Trumae Lucas fight for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)|
No. 19 Delaware women lose to No. 5 Maryland 85-76
COLLEGE PARK, Md.—There were no sad faces, no tears and no excuses by No. 19 Delaware after its first loss of the season.
Instead, the Blue Hens were decidedly upbeat about their performance Thursday night because they gave fifth-ranked Maryland all it could handle before falling 85-76 in the final of the Terrapin Classic.
Delaware led 44-41 in the second half before the Terrapins came back. But the Blue Hens proved their place in the Top 25 poll is completely justified.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we're a Top 20 team, if you really want to know how I feel," Delaware coach Tina Martin said. "We deserve our ranking right now."
Elena Delle Donne, who scored 24 of her 32 points in the second half, said, "The fight that we showed tonight is definitely promising."
And, even though the Terrapins (13-0) won the game, the Blue Hens earned the respect of Maryland coach Brenda Frese.
"Delaware is going to go far in the (NCAA) tournament," Frese said. "They've got all the pieces. I think Tina does a tremendous job."
Laurin Mincy scored 18 of her career-high 25 points after halftime and fueled a pivotal run that enabled Maryland to win the title game of the Terrapin Classic. Anjale Barrett had 16 points and eight assists despite missing time in the first half after taking a spill.
"We're going to go as far as our guards take us," Frese said. "It's just fun to see how our backcourt is working together."
The Terrapins trailed 44-41 before Mincy scored nine points in a 15-2 run that put Maryland ahead by 10 with 13:51 left. After the Blue Hens closed to 56-50, Barrett contributed the final seven points to a 9-2 spurt that upped the margin to 13.
Alyssa Thomas had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Terrapins, whose margin of victory was under double digits for only the second time this season.
Trumae Lucas scored 14 for the Blue Hens (10-1), who were seeking to improve on the best start in school history. Delaware is 0-10 all-time against Maryland and 3-28 versus ranked opponents.
Delle Donne finished 10 for 19 from the field and made all 10 of her free throws. The nation's leading scorer kept the Blue Hens in striking distance by scoring 24 points after halftime, including two foul shots that made it 79-73 with 3:43 to go.
But the Terrapins simply had too much depth and height. Maryland finished with a 38-30 rebounding advantage, the first time this season Delaware was beaten on the board.
"Hats off to them for doing an outstanding job, but also to my team," Martin said. "We've come a long way at Delaware. We need to grow and learn from this experience. ... They've been blowing people out of this building, and this game was hotly contested from the beginning to the very end."
It might have been even closer if Delle Donne performed better before halftime.
"In the first half I wasn't attacking enough," the 6-foot-5 junior said. "In the second half I was able to attack the glass more and get into the paint."
Delaware ran off 11 straight points late in the first half, taking its second lead of the game before a follow-shot by Whitney Bays put Maryland ahead 39-38 at the break.
After Thomas scored off the opening tip, the Blue Hens went up 7-6. Thomas then made a pair of baskets in a 13-4 run that put the Terps in front 19-11. The only Delaware points during the surge were scored by Delle Donne, who also committed two turnovers.
It was 24-20 before Thomas drilled a 3-pointer off a pass from Barrett and Kim Rodgers sank two foul shots. Minutes later, Thomas drove the length of the court for a layup, was fouled and added the free throw to make it 37-27.
The Terrapins then went nearly nine minutes without scoring. Barrett had assists on five of Maryland's first eight baskets, but she hurt her left ankle trying to take a charge and did not play the last 6 minutes of the half.