After a difficult first-round NCAA Tournament victory against Nebraska, the Kansas women face a team they have never seen before, but a name they cannot escape. Junior forward Elena Delle Donne leads the Delaware Blue Hens as the top scorer in the nation.
Kansas, 20-12, and Delaware, 31-1, will tip off at 8:40 p.m. on Tuesday. This game will be Kansas’ first appearance in the second round since 1999 and the first for Delaware in program history.
Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson compared Delle Donne to a range of players from Baylor’s Brittney Griner to NBA star Kevin Durant. Delle Donne scores in the post, but also shoots and makes three-pointers.
In third-seeded Delaware’s 73-42 victory against Arkansas-Little Rock on Sunday, Delle Donne scored 39 points and shot 14 of 27 from the field. She hit five of eight three-point attempts and six of seven free throws. She also added 11 rebounds and three blocks in only 30 minutes.
“There are a lot of great coaches in that league,” Henrickson said, “and there are a lot of great coaches on their schedule who did a lot of different things to try and stop her and it didn’t work, so it’s a challenge.”
Senior forward Aishah Sutherland will be charged with battling Delle Donne in the post. Henrickson is wary because Sutherland picked up two quick fouls last night and played only 20 minutes.
Delaware coach Tina Walter is not too comfortable facing Sutherland and Kansas either, though.
“Can you stop them?” Walter asked. “No. They are too good.”
Delaware is the champion of the Colonial Athletic Association and is ranked No. 8 in the country. Kansas, seeded 11th, started the season 11-1 and entered Big 12 play with a quick 4-1 start, but stumbled after losing junior forward and All-America nominee Carolyn Davis to a knee injury. The Jayhawks finished the season 2-6 after Davis’ injury, but achieved their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2000.
Freshman forward Chelsea Garnder filled in for Davis and hit her stride Sunday with a career-high 15 points and 16 rebounds. In the back court, the Jayhawks have All-America nominee Angel Goodrich, who led Kansas with 20 points against Nebraska in 39 minutes.