Women’s basketball out of CAA tournament following loss to Towson

WBB_TowsonLossCAA2019_MainPic
Courtesy of Delaware Athletics
Delaware lost to Towson 59-49 on its home floor in the quarterfinal round of the CAA tournament.

BY , Senior Reporter
AND , Senior Reporter

In a disappointing game against third-seeded Towson, the Delaware women’s basketball team fell short in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the CAA tournament, losing 59-49.

“[Our team] — in these two years — have grown, experienced things … Today we just didn’t put it together for you,” Delaware Head Coach Natasha Adair said in the postgame conference. “I hurt for them and I hurt for our seniors.”

With the win, Towson advanced to the semifinals, where they knocked off the Hofstra Pride, 69-48. Hofstra had stunningly upset the tournament’s top seed, James Madison, in the quarterfinal round. Towson defeated Drexel, 53-49, in the CAA championship game to claim its first-ever conference championship and the CAA’s NCAA tournament bid.

On the other hand, after winning 10 of their past 13 games, Delaware’s season met an abrupt end.

The team had a slow start to their season after losing reigning CAA Player of the Year Nicole Enabosi to an ACL injury and facing several other injuries, which frequently changed their lineup. They managed to find their rhythm by the time conference games rolled around in early January, and entered the CAA playoffs as the fifth-seeded team with an 11-7 record.

Their running success would hit a screeching halt after their first game in the playoffs.

Delaware had a slow start to the game offensively as almost none of their shots were falling ー only making nine of their 32 shots in the first half.

Towson was also cold, but shooting 8-12 from the free throw line and 2-8 from three, compared to Delaware’s 4-6 from foul shots and 0-6 from three.

With pull-ups and three-pointers going mostly unsuccessful for the duration of the game, the Blue Hens resorted to drives to the basket during fast breaks, which is primarily what kept them on the board. Essential shots by junior forward Samone DeFreese, freshman guard Jasmine Dickey and redshirt senior guard Alison Lewis were included in these.

Lewis shot 4-8, being Delaware’s most consistent shooter for the game.

Meanwhile, Towson guard Kionna Jeter and fellow guard Quierra Murray frequently utilized the same tactic, which was highly effective against Delaware’s wavering defense.

This put Towson in the lead by the end of the half, with the score 28-20.

Moving into the second half, a lack of intensity on part of Delaware’s defense continued to cost them.

“We’ve taken pride in [our defense] all year [because] when our shots haven’t been falling, one thing we could rely on was our defense and leading in transition,” DeFreese said. “And we didn’t really score in transition today. I feel like we just didn’t play our game, and that made us struggle.”

About seven minutes into the third quarter came a significant, successful three-pointer by Defreese — significant because it was the only three-pointer Delaware scored in the entire game.

On top of that, Delaware’s defense started to assert more of a presence, with notable blocks and rebounds by forwards Lizzie O’Leary, Rebecca Lawrence and Dickey.

Despite these helpful adjustments, nothing could help the fact that Delaware’s shots weren’t making it through the net, and Towson’s were.

“Offensively our shots weren’t falling, so we went on a couple strides where we held them to not score as well — but the only problem on that side is that we weren’t scoring either, so I think not capitalizing on when we were playing defense well was tough for us,” DeFreese said.

“We went 19-65 [in shooting],” Adair said. “And I felt like a lot of shots we took were ones that we worked to get in, the right people were shooting them, and they just didn’t fall. Was it resolve? The gaps involved? — I don’t know — we could say a million things.”

With slower reactions moving Delaware’s defensive unit and mistakes that oftentimes left opposing players wide open, Jeter quickly became the greatest threat on the court to Delaware’s victory. Her decisive passes as well as several drives to the basket frequently resulted in successful shots, free throws, or sometimes both.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the score was 46-37 in favor of Towson.

Within the next nine minutes, it would increase to 51-49 with only one minute and ten seconds left on the clock. It was the first time in the game since the first quarter that the score difference had fallen to just two points.

In the last minute, although Delaware successfully executed plays that would allow them to get some shots up, their biggest challenge since the beginning of the game had stuck around, and they simply could not make those shots.

At 14.9 seconds remaining, the score had increased to 57-49, and with a final successful shot at six seconds left, Towson sealed the deal for a ten-point game.

In the end, Jeter totaled a 30-point contribution to her team’s 59, after shooting 11-23 from the field and 2-5 from three, making more threes than the whole Delaware team.

Delaware finished with five steals compared to Towson’s nine. On Towson’s side, Jeter alone had four of their steals, causing four of the Blue Hens’ 14 turnovers. This problem wasn’t addressed until the third quarter, when Delaware attempted to resort to a play that utilized handoffs rather than chest or bounce passes.

The essence of this game’s disappointment is that Delaware’s remarkable season turnaround dictated that better was not only wished for, but possible.

In addition, redshirt senior guard Alison Lewis and graduate student forward Makeda Nicholas will both be graduating following this season.

While speaking on the seniors and next season, Adair said, “When it’s that time to sit and think about it, I’m sure I will get excited, but it does hurt for our seniors because they have committed from the time we stepped on campus.”

Despite the graduation of two seniors, all is not lost looking to next year. The Blue Hens will have four of their five starters returning for next season and retain Enabosi, this being a ray of hope for the 2019-2020 season.

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