In thirty-ish minutes, the UK Hoops squad will continue their quest for a Final Four when they face Delaware in the ever-quaint Bridgeport, Connecticut. The second seeded Hoops are coming off what has been dubbed (by me, at least) “The Puke Game,” a win over Dayton, while the six seeded Delaware Blue Hens beat North Carolina to earn their first Sweet 16 berth in school history. Here’s the lowdown:
Y’all, I was so close to just ending the post right there because let’s face it, half of you have stopped reading anyway. For the select few whose attention I still have, let me fill you in. That’s Elena Delle Donne. Aside from being a goddess and life-size Basketball Barbie with the most poetic name possible, the 6’5″ Delle Donne is a three-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and two-time All-American who leads Delaware in scoring (25.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg). That’s good enough for second in the nation in scoring as well as fourth in free throw shooting (91.7%, which is just slightly lower than my college GPA #HumbleBrag). Although she’s a forward, Elena has a guard’s shooting touch and provides a tough match-up for every single team she faces. Not only is Delle Donne a prolific scorer, but she can also take care of the ball. Check this: Elena has committed less turnovers (28) than games she has played in (29). That. Is. Insane. Especially considering how many touches she gets on the Blue Hens’ offense.
You would think it would be easy to hate this Amazon blonde, but I’ve tried, and I just ended up gawking at Google Images of her for hours last night. A big part of her un-hate-ability is her devotion to her sister Lizzie, who was born deaf, blind, and with cerebral palsy; in fact, being away from Lizzie is one of the things that caused Elena to transfer from UCONN to Delaware just a couple days into her freshman year. See? YOU CAN’T HATE HER!
So what are the keys to the game for UK Hoops to beat the Fighting Delle Donnes? Well, let’s start simple: no puking on the sidelines. The team has had plenty of time to hydrate and recover since the Dayton game. If we’re talking more complex strategies, the most important thing for the Hoops is that Dayton A’dia Mathies shows up rather than Navy Mathies. You’ll remember that in the tournament opener against the Navy, Mathies was largely a non-factor, scoring only five points without a field goal; against Dayton, however, A’dia matched her career high with 34 points. The Hoops’ bench is deep and talented enough to match Delle Donne’s production, but they’ll need A’dia (the two-time reigning SEC player of the year) to have a big game of her own.
Which team dictates the pace will ultimately decide who wins this matchup. Delaware would rather be able to run their half court offense sets through Delle Donne. The Hoops will push for an up-tempo pace to try and force Delaware into turnovers. The Blue Hens commit the third-fewest turnovers in the nation, so this task won’t be easily achieved, especially with Delle Donne so comfortable in any position on the court. Delaware will try to avoid on-ball screens and the resulting double-team from the Hoops, while Kentucky wants Delle Donne to have to catch the ball outside her comfort zone (a difficult task, since Delle Donne is much more mobile than your average forward). The Hoops’ defensive tenacity and trapping has been a strength all season- one that they’ll want to focus on especially in today’s game. Kentucky is deeper and more athletic than the Blue Hens; if the Hoops can get off and running, Delle Donne won’t be enough to drive her team to the Elite Eight.
We’ve got the whole crew down there to watch the Hoops, so tune in to ESPN right now. Five points to anyone who tweets me a television screen pic of Wilder making an exaggerated facial expression. Drink every time Hayley tweets a Vine. This is going to be fun, guys.