NEWARK, Del. -- Elena Delle Donne sensed she would need a big effort for Delaware (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) to remain unbeaten in the Colonial Athletic Association. She delivered an incredible performance.
Delle Donne had 41 points, 15 rebounds and five assists to lead Delaware to an 84-66 victory over Hofstra on Thursday night in a meeting of the top two teams in the conference.
"Some nights you have to put the team on your back and be a leader for them," she said. "This was one of those nights."
With the score tied at 55 midway through the second half, the Blue Hens (17-1, 8-0) went on a 14-0 run to take control. Delle Donne started the spurt by getting a rebound, dribbling up the court and firing a no-look pass to Jocelyn Bailey for a layup. Delle Donne, who leads the nation in scoring with a 27.9 average, hit a deep 3-pointer that made it 65-55 with just over 8 minutes left.
She added two free throws a minute later and Danielle Parker's jumper capped the burst.
Hofstra (14-5, 6-2) could get no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Delaware coach Tina Martin almost seemed to take her star's effort in stride.
"Elena does what Elena does," she said. "We set a lot of screens to get her good looks at the basket."
The Blue Hens' only blemish this season was an 85-76 loss to then-No. 8 Maryland in the Terps' tournament. No team in the conference has come within single digits.
Delle Donne was more aggressive from the start. The 6-foot-5 junior took a season-high 29 shots and for stretches looked unstoppable. She had 12 points and an assist during one stretch of the first half. She had the Blue Hens' first seven points of the second half.
In one sequence she hit a 3-pointer, ran back on defense and had a monster block then ran back the other way finishing off the fast break with a layup. That brought the crowd of 3,500 to its feet.
"I think that was one of the biggest things, get the crowd into it," Delle Donne said. "We needed a little bit of a lift and I think that did it at that moment."
Delle Donne broke the 40-point barrier on a baseline jumper with 1:31 left in the game. She exited a short time after. She was still well short of her career-high 54 from two seasons ago against James Madison.
Shante Evans had 22 points to lead the Pride.
Hofstra, which already has wins this season over St. John's and Kansas State as well as Marist, was playing its 10th game ever against a ranked opponent. The Pride's only victory came in coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky's first season -- a 57-53 win over Michigan State.
However, that would have paled in comparison to a victory over Delaware as it would have put the Pride in first place in the conference.
"This was round one of a three-round fight," Kilburn-Stevesky said. "They took the first round, hopefully we'll get the next one."
The teams meet again at Hofstra on Feb. 16.
The Pride haven't had much success in the series with Delaware losing 46 of the 56 meetings.
"For an 8-minute stretch we struggled and that was the ballgame," Kilburn-Stevesky added.
Hofstra guard Katelyn Loper was back in the starting lineup. She missed two games after injuring her head in a win over William & Mary. Loper came off the bench the next two games, but was back in the starting lineup against Delaware.
The sophomore had 10 points in the first 10 minutes as Hofstra built a nine-point lead.
Delle Donne's pass across the lane to Kelsey Buchanan with just under 2 seconds left in the first half tied the game at 37. Delle Donne finished the half with 16 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
"We came out like we were scared to lose. That was huge to tie it up at halftime," Delle Donne said. "We went into the half with a lot of confidence, it helped boost us coming out in the second half."
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