Women’s team falls in CAA Semifinals to Drexel; Championship game drought reaches five years
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. –– The Delaware women’s basketball team pushed No. 1 Drexel to overtime, but was outlasted in the extra session, falling 58-53 on Friday in the semifinals of the CAA tournament from Drexel University.
After a second round victory over Northeastern on Thursday, the Blue Hens (19-12) returned to the semifinals for the eighth time in nine years. In the win over Northeastern, Delaware held the Huskies to just 28 percent shooting and 50 points, a drastic improvement from the regular season in which Delaware gave up 64 and 73 points in two losses to Northeastern.
In the win, CAA player of the year Nicole Enabosi notched her 23rd double-double of the season, tallying 16 points and 14 rebounds, while sophomores Abby Gonzales and Samone DeFreese added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Maybe the most impressive aspect of Delaware’s win over the Huskies was its three-point defense. Against the top three-point shooting team in the CAA, Northeastern made just 10 of 35 shots from behind the arc.
“The two early games, they were just wide open in some instances and we were late on our closeouts, so I thought we were very focused and locked in on arriving on the catch and making it hard for them to knock down those threes,” Head Coach Natasha Adair said.
While the Blue Hens put up a similar defensive effort Friday against Drexel (26-7) –– allowing them to go toe to toe with a team that beat them by a combined 40 points in two previous matchups this season –– they were very inconsistent offensively, mustering just one point in the second quarter after jumping out of the gate with 19 in the first.
A strong third quarter gave Delaware a 37-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter and Enabosi and sophomore guard Bailey Kargo –– each with four fouls –– successfully navigated through the majority of the final frame without picking up a disqualifying fifth. But Delaware turned the ball over nine times in the fourth and Drexel senior Kelsi Lidge scored five points in the final two minutes to knot the game at 46 with 21 seconds to play.
With less than five seconds remaining, Enabosi missed the potential game winning shot, a turnaround jumper that hit the rim and bounced out.
“That one definitely hurt,” Enabosi said. “It was a great look, I saw the basket. It just happened to roll out, so unfortunately it wasn’t able to go in.
Lidge missed a shot on the other end as the clock expired, sending the teams to overtime –– the first CAA tournament game to require the extra session since 2010.
In overtime, six turnovers and seven fouls, leading to eight Drexel free throws, cost the Blue Hens a chance to head to their first CAA championship game since 2014.
“We don’t celebrate moral victories,” Adair said. “We had some scoring woes, the second. We fought back in the third, but two minutes to go, can’t turn the ball over seven times. And what is that? I’m not gonna make excuses. I think some of it though was a little bit of inexperience.”
After Kargo fouled out in overtime, Adair opted for transfer guard Alison Lewis, who entered the game averaging just under 10 minutes a game. She committed five turnovers in 12 minutes of play in Friday’s loss.
Enabosi, who entered the game averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, both best in the CAA, was held to just 11 points, her fourth lowest scoring total of the season.
“I think they zero in like every team did all year,” Adair said. “They ran people at her, they double teamed her. Denise [Dillon] (Drexel Head Coach) does a phenomenal job, so she made some adjustments obviously coming out of the locker room, but I think Nicole has handled that beautifully.”
DeFreese collected 17 points and 10 rebounds, a performance that earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.
Despite the loss –– and possibly aided by its ability to play the number one team in the conference to overtime –– the Blue Hens received a bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and will play Georgetown, Adair’s former team, Friday at 7:00pm.
Drexel, who was beat by Elon in the CAA championship, will also play Friday night in the NIT, against Robert Morris.