NEWARK, Del. — After a nine-day layoff, the University of Delaware women’s basketball team showed little signs of rust.
With the help of a big night from Bailey Kargo and a career night from Alison Lewis, the Blue Hens dispatched visiting Gardner-Webb, 69-45, on Tuesday night. Delaware won its first home game and snapped a three-game losing streak, while extending the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ losing streak to five.
“We’ve got four starters out and we figured it out today,” Blue Hen head coach Natasha Adair said. “Coming out of finals, you never know where their mind is, but this is a group that’s so relentless and this is a group that hungry. We’re playing for March, we’re not playing for December.”
Kargo scored a season-high 20 points off the bench — one off her career high — to lead all scorers, while Lewis posted a career-high 17 points. Lewis, a redshirt senior who played her first two years of college ball at Providence, came close to a double-double with eight rebounds, and she also set a career high in assists with four and tied a career high with four steals.
Lewis started her second straight game after playing her first 27 games with Delaware (4-6) off the bench.
“Honestly, it doesn’t feel different — it’s just coming out and playing basketball,” she said. “I was just focusing on the next play if I made a mistake. If I missed a shot, I was trying to get the rebound or trying to get the steal. Our communication was perfect. I heard everyone behind me, telling me where to go.”
Gardner-Webb (4-6) took an early 9-5 lead with the help of a few Blue Hen turnovers, but the hosts responded with a 22-2 run that lasted into the second quarter. Adair subbed in Kargo for freshman point guard Paris McBride, and she immediately picked up her struggling teammate, scoring the first eight points of the run with two 3-pointers sandwiched around a long, baseline jumper. The defense also got several steals, helping Delaware take a 27-11 lead with 7:07 left in the first half.
“Bailey was in a shooting slump, but I said great shooters keep shooting,” Adair said. “Alison has worked so hard to get to this point, and those two stepped up. We’ve started so many different lineups this season, and we do it by committee. It’s not the first five for us, it’s how deep can we go.”
Six different players scored for the Blue Hens in the second quarter, as they cruised into halftime with a comfortable 38-19 lead.
Neither team scored for the first four minutes of the second half. The Bulldogs then cut the deficit to 44-29 but got no closer through the rest of the game. Delaware closed the third quarter on a 7-2 run, including five from Lewis, to extend its lead to 51-31.
“We shot 49 percent from the field — that’s a first for us this year,” Adair said. “That means we were sharing the ball, we were taking good shots, but everything we got, we got off of our defense. Our goal was to hold them under 50.”
Forward Makeda Nichols posted a season-high 11 boards, while Rebecaa Lawrence finished with five blocks. Adair also praised other players whose contributions didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
“Gadson Lefft came in and got big rebounds for us. Lizzie O’Leary is one of our best passers,” she said. “I just like watching their confidence grow.”
Jhessyka Williams led Gardner-Webb with 13 points.
The Blue Hens are back in action on Thursday as they host Division-I powerhouse, Maryland. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
“You’ve got to enjoy this for 10-15 minutes, and as coaches, we’ve already watched film,” Adair said. “Having the No. 15 (team) come into our gym, that just speaks volumes. The fact that they want to come play us, that’s respect.”