What Blue Hens fans need to know before the CAA women’s basketball tournament
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
The Delaware Blue Hens, under first-year Head Coach Natasha Adair, enter the CAA tournament as the fifth seed with a record of 18-11 overall and 11-7 in conference play.
Delaware will play the fourth seed, Northeastern, in the quarterfinal round, needing three straight wins to take the CAA title and advance to the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid.
2018 marks the third straight tournament in which Delaware will play in the 4 vs. 5 seed matchup, including last year’s 59-44 loss to William & Mary, which marked the unceremonious end of Tina Martin’s illustrious Delaware tenure.
Since last year’s one-and-done performance, the Blue Hens have been thoroughly revamped, with Adair installing a drastically quicker up-tempo offensive style. The change has resulted in significantly more possessions (Delaware is averaging almost 10 estimated possessions more per game this season than last) and three-point attempts (just over two attempts more per game). The outcome has been an improved offense, which has leaped from ninth in the CAA in 2016-2017 to second in total offense in 2017-2018 with 66.7 points per game.
A large factor in that growth is junior Nicole Enabosi, who increased her scoring mark by nearly five points per game and her rebounding average by two per game. She leads the CAA in both categories (18.4 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game) and is considered the front runner for CAA Player of the Year. If she wins the award, she will be the first Blue Hen to do so since Elena Delle Donne, who won the honor in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Despite the improvements, Delaware has still struggled against the top teams in the CAA — going a combined 1-5 against Drexel, James Madison and Elon, the top three teams in the tournament. Last season, as the fifth seed, Delaware was 1-8 against the teams above them.
Northeastern has also fared well against Delaware, having defeated the Blue Hens 64-53 on Jan. 26 in Newark and 73-59 on Feb. 4 in Boston. Northeastern’s plus 25 point-scoring margin against Delaware this season is the second greatest scoring margin by a CAA team against the Blue Hens, led only by Drexel’s plus 40 point-scoring differential.
The Huskies are led by junior point guard Jess Genco, the fourth-leading scorer in the CAA at 14.3 points per game. Northeastern leads the conference in three-point shooting percentage at 34.5 percent and Genco leads all individual scorers with a mark of 36.6 percent from deep. Claudia Ortiz (11.3 points per game), Gabby Giacone (11.3 points per game) and Shannon Todd (10.1 points per game) combine with Genco to give the Huskies four scorers in the CAA’s top 25.
Northeastern may only bring one player off the bench; freshman guard Stella Clark. Clark is the front runner for CAA Rookie of the Year, having earned rookie of the week honors five times this season.
Outside of Enabosi, the Blue Hens have struggled offensively against Northeastern’s fifth-ranked defense this season. In each matchup, only one Delaware player not named Enabosi scored more than 10 points.
One notable drop off has been the play of sophomore guard Bailey Kargo . In the February matchup in Boston, Kargo led all scorers with 18 points. In the eight games since Kargo has averaged 6.0 points per game and has seen her three-point attempts per game dip to 1.8 in her last five games , from 5.3 in her first 24 contests. Her playing time has also sunk to 22.2 minutes per game in the Hens’ last five games.
The CAA women’s basketball tournament gets underway Wednesday afternoon at the Daskalakis Center in Philadelphia, PA with the play-in games between Towson and UNCW and Charleston and Hofstra. Delaware opens CAA tournament play against the fifth-seeded Northeastern Huskies at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. If the Blue Hens advance, they will play in the semifinal round Friday at 3:00 p.m. The CAA championship will be played Saturday at 1:00 p.m.