ORONO, Maine — Elena Delle Donne hit a running 10-footer in traffic with 1.1 seconds to play Tuesday night, lifting the University of Delaware to a 52-50 women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at Alfond Arena.
The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne, the most highly touted high school player in the country after the 2007-08 season, negotiated the UMaine defense and hit the game-winner.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bears (2-5) turned in a hard-nosed defensive performance but eventually succumbed to the Blue Hens’ considerable height advantage.
Delle Donne, who originally committed to Connecticut but wound up transferring to Delaware (4-3), finished with a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. No other Blue Hen scored more than seven points.
Senior Katia Bratishko paced UMaine with 14 points, while classmate Amanda Tewksbury contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds. Samantha Baranowski added eight points, and Kristin Baker of Bingham finished with nine assists.
The Blue Hens finally put together a run in the second half, scoring seven unanswered points to turn a 32-28 deficit into a 35-32 edge with 12:41 to play. Delle Donne scored five straight points in the surge.
UMaine responded with a run of its own as Samantha Baranowski scored two free throws and a power move in the lane to restore the Bears to a slim 38-36 lead with 8:16 remaining.
Katelyn Vanderhoff threw in a 12-footer from the baseline at the halftime horn, sending the Bears into the locker room knotted in a 26-26 tie.
Baker handed out the assist, her fifth of the half, to give UMaine an emotional boost heading into the break.
UMaine, led by the tenacious defense of Samantha Wheeler, limited Delle Donne to 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting. The rest of the Hens went 7-for-14 from the field.
The Bears had their share of struggles in the first half working against the taller Hens, who played both a 2-3 zone and man-to-man. However, UMaine made up for 35 percent shooting with a 7-for-8 effort from the foul line.
The hosts also outrebounded Delaware 19-13, including seven offensive boards.
UMaine received a big offensive boost from Bratishko, who scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting. And while the Bears committed 11 turnovers, their defensive efforts paid dividends in the form of 10 Delaware miscues.
The half featured five ties and eight lead changes, with neither team able to build an advantage of more than four points.
The Delle Donne shot over the Bears’ perimeter defense for a couple of 3-pointers, but she was otherwise relatively quiet as she worked to get open shots.
Delaware excelled with its size and muscle, driving inside for 16 of its 26 first-half points.