BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has his team one victory away from the school’s first Final Four. The Wildcats had to overcome an incredible effort by Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne to get there.
Jennifer O’Neill scored 19 points, and A’dia Mathies added 16 to help Kentucky hold off the Blue Hens 69-62 on Saturday in the Bridgeport regional semifinals, bringing to an end the stellar career of Delle Donne.
It’s the second straight season that Kentucky has advanced to the regional final and will play Connecticut, which beat Kentucky by 15 points last year.
Kentucky withstood a Delaware rally led by Delle Donne, who had 33 points for Delaware. The Wildcats led by 14 in the second half before the Blue Hens cut it to 62-60.
But Kastine Evans calmly responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 65-60.
“She’s unbelievable in those moments,” Mitchell said. “She’s made so many of those. I was not surprised and I was elated and very happy we needed a bucket.”
Jaquetta May had three chances at putbacks on the other end, but couldn’t convert and that ended any shot of the upset and finished off Delaware’s amazing season.
Delle Donne ended as the fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points. She passed former stars Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Maya Moore on Saturday. Delle Donne finished short of Jackie Stiles’ scoring mark of 3,393 set at Southwest Missouri State from 1998-2001.
CONNECTICUT 76, MARYLAND 50
At Bridgeport, Conn., Connecticut’s youngest players have the Huskies back in an old and familiar spot.
Freshmen Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck combined for 35 points as UConn advanced to its eighth straight regional final after a blowout over Maryland.
Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis each had 17 points to lead the Huskies. Stewart also had eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Jefferson made several key defensive stops and her two fast-break layups capped a 9-0 run to start the second half, giving UConn a 44-26 lead and control of the game.