NEWARK, Del. — When the shots aren’t falling, do whatever is necessary to win.
The University of Delaware women followed that guideline to a tee in their 48-39, non-conference victory over Saint Joseph’s on Friday.
Neither team shot well from the floor, though Delaware’s 21-for-65 performance (32.3 percent) was marginally better than the Hawks’ 16-for-56 (28.6 percent). The difference was the Blue Hens’ multiple defensive schemes and their liberal use of substituting players. They also never trailed in the contest.
“We got the looks that we wanted, but we never let the fact that they didn’t fall stop us defensively,” Blue Hen head coach Natasha Adair said. “We talked about that coming in — we have to get stops. We can’t let them get those second and third opportunities. They’re bigger in a lot of areas, so we had to make sure we were physical on those rebounds. We were locked in together as a team, defensively.”
Despite the Hawks’ height advantage, Delaware (5-7) edged them in rebounds, 46-42. Freshman guard Jasmine Dickey nearly notched a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, while teammate Makeda Nicholas finished with a team-high 10 boards and eight points.
“It was communication,” Dickey said. “All we had to do was talk, have our hands up, getting our steals. It was just communication all around.”
After neither team scored in the first two minutes of the game, the Blue Hens put up six quick points. Shooting remained at a premium through the rest of the period though, as Delaware led 13-5 at the break.
Saint Joseph’s (4-8) put together its best offensive stretch of the evening in the second quarter with an 8-0 run that tied the game at 15-all. The Blue Hen defense tightened its effective wall in the low post, allowing the offense to pull away again and take a 22-17 lead at the half.
Delaware switched to a half-court trap in the third quarter, and it went on a 7-0 run for its largest lead of the game, 34-21. Adair then switched out the entire starting lineup, and the bench maintained the double-digit lead through the rest of the period.
“I love the way our team responds to different strategies. We change it up on the fly,” Adair said. “We have changed the starting lineup 11 times this season, so right now everyone is a starter. I’m confident with all of them out there at any time.”
The Hawks tried to cut into Delaware’s lead in the fourth, but got no closer than six. Dickey made sure of that by scoring six of her 10 points in the last three minutes. She was the only starter for either team to shoot better than 50 percent (5-for-9) from the field.
“She’s so relentless,” Adair said. “As a freshman, she has no fear. To know that and to see her teammates get excited about that, it becomes contagious.”
Katie Mayock recorded a double-double for Saint Joseph’s, with a game-high 11 points and 13 rebounds. Lula Roig added 11 points off the bench.
Adair said the biggest indicator of Delaware’s success was the Hawks’ 1-for-13 showing from three-point range. The Blue Hens have allowed their last three opponents to go just 10-for-53 behind the arc (18.9 percent), and that includes No. 5 Maryland.
“This was a team with four — what we call — zero gaps on the perimeter at times,” Adair explained. “People can say they had a bad shooting night, but some of it was contributed by our defense being there and being on time.”
The Blue Hens closed 2018 with four straight home games, and they open conference play in the Colonial Athletic Association with three more games at Bob Carpenter Center. The first is against James Madison on Jan. 4. Adair is eager to see how her players perform after a challenging non-conference schedule.
“It has prepared us for every team we’re going to see in our league,” she said. “Now we have to put it all together. Now it’s for real. We get to open up conference at home, and we want to go 2-0 coming out of that opening weekend.”