Saturday, March 12, 2011

JMU-Delaware - another classic?

That top-seeded James Madison and No. 7 Delaware will meet in Sunday's CAA final (1 p.m., Comcast Sportsnet, WSKY-TV in Hampton Roads) gives us another excuse to bring up one of our favorite women's basketball games ever - JMU's 88-83 overtime triumph over the Blue Hens on Feb. 18, 2010.

JMU star Dawn Evans went off for a then-school record-tying 38 points. Delaware stud Elena Delle Donne countered with a CAA-record 54 points. No disrespect to the other fine players involved, but at times, it was as though these two were the only ones on the court:

With 19.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Evans hit two free throws to put the Dukes up 71-67.  Delle Donne worked her way down the court and drained a leaning three-pointer with 9.3 seconds left to cut the lead to one. After two more Evans free throws with 7.4 seconds on the clock, Delle Donne took the inbounds pass, dribbled through a press and hit another three from the same spot with no time on the clock to send the game into overtime.

In addition to producing 92 points, Evans and Delle Donne combined to hit 13 3-pointers and 25 of 28 free throws. Delle Donne's output was the seventh-highest in NCAA Division I history and the most by any D-I player since 2000.

“Elena’s game was the greatest individual performance that I’ve ever coached,” Blue Hens coach Tina Martin said. “There are only a few people in the country who can shoot the way she does with two and three people hanging on her. I have an All-American on my team. Her name is Elena Delle Donne, and yes, I’m going to get her the ball. That’s what you do when you have great players.”

We're not really expecting anything like this Sunday. The Dukes are playing for the third time in as many days, the Blue Hens for an unprecedented fourth straight day. For distinctly different, well-publicized reasons, neither Evans nor Delle Donne has been 100 percent physically all season, let alone at the end of a string of consecutive games. And naturally, both teams are game-planning to win by committee rather than on the strength of one virtuoso performance.

Still, last year's epic overtime game showed us what both players are capable of. And if we're lucky, really lucky, Sunday's final won't just be a hotly contested championship game. It will also be a fitting showcase for two of the very best offensive forces to ever play in the CAA.

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