Elena Delle Donne boosts Delaware in season debut

DOVER, Del. -- Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points in her first game of the season to lead Delaware to a 64-46 win over Providence on Tuesday night.

The preseason All-American had missed the first three games while dealing with symptoms of Lyme Disease.

"I felt OK. My endurance isn't there, but it's something I can't push, either," Delle Donne said. "I'm just working to get back. I don't want to push it too hard and send myself back to the bed."

Without their star, who averaged a nation-leading 28.1 points to go with 10.3 rebounds last season, the Blue Hens (2-2) fell out of the Top 25 on Monday. Delaware had been ranked every week since joining the poll for the first time in school history last November.

"Obviously, it's great to have Elena back in the lineup," Delaware coach Tina Martin said. "Things run just a little bit more smoothly with her in there. I was pleased with how we played and it was great to get the win."

Delle Donne got going quickly, scoring 15 points in the first half as the Blue Hens built a 41-25 lead at the break. She missed her first three shots, but finished the game 9 for 20 from the field. She also had eight rebounds in 27 minutes. It was the 73rd time in her 85-game career she's scored more than 20 in a game.

She initially contracted the disease in 2008 and then suffered again through its effects two years ago. She was fine last season while leading Delaware to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"The bottom line is her disease is very unpredictable," Martin said. "We've got to hope that she can take care of her body and that she doesn't have any lapses and that she can play games this year and not miss games.

"It's a tricky thing. I thought preseason we managed it pretty well. She wasn't practicing all the time. It was very similar to last year -- obviously she made it through all of last year. Again, this disease is so unpredictable with her that it makes it tough."

Delle Donne will have time to rest with the team on a break until Nov. 28 when the Blue Hens host St. Bonaventure.

"It was really hard (watching from the bench). I knew I couldn't be out there, but I wanted to be really badly," she said. "I felt the team was lacking a leader a little bit. Just coming back and maybe not even being full force but being a leader to them. I think it gives them confidence and helps them play a little better."