Published January 13, 2015
It was a replay that West Virginia could have done without.
The Mountaineers played a solid first half against sixth-seeded Delaware in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Sunday, just as they did against Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament.
And then came the final 20 minutes.
Delaware star Elena Delle Donne scored 20 of her 33 points in the second half, and the Blue Hens eliminated West Virginia with a 66-53 victory.
Ayana Dunning had 15 points and 10 rebounds for 11th-seeded West Virginia (17-14), which closed the season with a four-game losing streak. The Mountaineers blew a 19-point halftime lead against Oklahoma, and they also wilted in the second half of this one after holding a 33-26 advantage.
In both games, the Mountaineers were outscored 40-20 after halftime.
"The similarities were we didn't execute as well as we could have in both games," Dunning said. "It is kind of frustrating."
Dunning would have preferred to end her college career on a better note, but she had no regrets about her run at West Virginia.
"While I do have this bitter taste in my mouth, I couldn't have been happier playing at any other university," she said.
The Mountaineers lose only two seniors, so the future could be bright for a program that has reached the NCAA tournament in six of the last seven years.
"I hate losing Ayana, but I think we can be really great next year," junior guard Christal Caldwell said.
Playing on their home floor before a sellout crowd, the Blue Hens bounced back in the second half to extend their school-record winning streak to 26 games. Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 senior, went 10 for 24 from the floor and 12 for 13 at the foul line and had seven rebounds.
West Virginia was 7 for 22 from the floor after halftime, committed 11 turnovers compared to six in the first half and was outrebounded 21-12.
"It's two halves," coach Mike Carey said. "They hurt us on the boards, and in the first half, we didn't put Delle Donne on the foul line. Second half, she had 13 foul shots."
Both teams struggled immediately after the intermission. The Mountaineers missed their first six shots and the Blue Hens went 1 for 7, leaving West Virginia up 33-28 with 15 minutes remaining.
Delaware returned from a timeout to score seven straight points to take its first lead since 20-19. Minutes later, four different Blue Hens scored in an 8-0 run that made it 51-42.
"We just didn't get the stops we were getting in the first half," Carey lamented.
It was 54-48 before Delle Donne worked her way inside to bank a short jumper off the glass for an eight-point cushion with 3:23 remaining.
In the first half, Delle Donne scored half of Delaware's 26 points. West Virginia used a 7-2 run to close a half that featured three ties and seven lead changes.