HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) — It wasn’t just another loss for Hofstra guards Nicole Capurso and Candice Bellocchio.
The pair really wanted to beat No. 10 Delaware in honor of their former AAU coach Clare Droesh, who has stage IV breast cancer, but Elena Delle Donne scored a season-high 42 points to lead the Blue Hens to an 89-79 victory Thursday night.
The Pride wore pink warm-up shirts that said “Crush Clare’s Cancer”. The school had to get a waiver to wear them since Droesch is a high school coach in New York. Droesch talked to the team before the game.
“It was really emotional,” Pride coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Hofstra also wore its pink uniforms that are usually reserved for the Play4Kay games in honor of former N.C. State coach Kay Yow, who succumbed to cancer three years ago.
“I know my team wanted this one really bad, because it was for a great cause,” said Bellocchio, who matched her career high with 21 points. “We dedicated the game to Clare Droesch. She told us she’s fighting for her life and that put things in perspective.”
Hofstra just had no answer for Elena Delle Donne, who scored 42 points in the Blue Hens’ victory on Thursday night.
Delle Donne, who eclipsed 2,000 points for her career, also had 14 rebounds and six blocks for Delaware.
“Definitely, it’s a big accomplishment,” she said. “It’s been an amazing career so far and I’m enjoying it every step of the way. This has been a joy. It doesn’t compare to what this team’s done this season. Getting wins are most important.”
The Blue Hens (23-1, 14-0 Colonial Athletic Association) continued their ascent up the Top 25, earning their highest ever ranking Monday. Delaware has won 13 straight games since its lone loss of the season to Maryland. Delle Donne has been the main reason for the success. She has feasted on Hofstra this season, scoring 41 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in the first meeting between the teams three weeks earlier. She’s now had four 40-point games this season.
“I don’t want to lose, that’s the bottom line,” she said. “I needed to score points tonight. I needed to help my team tonight scoring the ball and just attacking.”
The 6-foot-5 junior had nine points during a 15-2 run spanning halftime that Delaware used to take control of the game. Her tough bank shot that capped the spree made it 50-41.
She hit a pretty 3-pointer from the top of the key a few minutes later to cross the 2,000-point milestone and give the Blue Hens a 59-48 lead. She scored 14 straight points to help keep Hofstra (17-8, 9-5) from getting any closer than six the rest of the way.
“Elena’s not a silent assassin, she’s so skilled,” Delaware coach Tina Martin said. “It’s so hard to stop her shot. She’s got a quick release, uses the ball fake very well.”
She got off to a slow start as Hofstra built an early advantage. The Blue Hens trailed 39-35 with two minutes left in the first half before scoring the final five points to take a one-point lead at the break. Delle Donne had 14 points in the half, while Bellocchio had 16 to lead Hofstra.
This was the highest-ranked opponent ever to play at Hofstra. Old Dominion was the only other ranked team that the Pride has hosted — and that was a decade ago.
“Obviously Delaware has put together a memorable season. It’s tough playing them,” Kilburn-Steveskey said.
Katelyn Loper also scored 21 points for the Pride.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.