By KURT VOIGT, Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Even Elena Delle Donne couldn't stop Kansas' improbable NCAA tournament run.
The nation's leading scorer had 34 points, but Angel Goodrich answered with 27 of her own for the 11th-seeded Jayhawks, who rallied in the second half for a 70-64 win over the Blue Hens on Tuesday night.
Delaware's (31-2) only other loss this season was to No. 5 Maryland on Dec. 29. The school entered the tournament having never won an NCAA game before its opening-round win over Arkansas-Little Rock, in which Delle Donne scored 39 points in 30 minutes of action.
Despite the success, the abrupt and unexpected end to the season was hard to take.
"This really has been a dream season and a dream team," Delle Donne said while fighting back tears. "The thing we're most disappointed about is just it being over, especially saying goodbye to our seniors.
"I'm just sorry for the seniors and to my teammates, because we had a lot of fun."
The Jayhawks (21-12), improbably, moved to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since 1998. They'll face Tennessee on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
"When I was in the locker room, I told my teammates to pinch me," junior Aishah Sutherland said.
They advanced by rallying in the second half behind Goodrich, who fell one short of her career high in scoring. The junior was 12 of 21 from the field, 3 of 6 on 3-pointers, and also added six assists.
Goodrich had plenty of help from a Kansas defense that harassed Delle Donne throughout. The Jayhawks swarmed the 6-foot-5 junior, double- and triple-teaming her at times as they did their best to keep her from finding a comfort zone.
Delle Donne finished 9 of 18 from the field, 15 of 18 from the free throw line, and also had 10 rebounds. The effort, however, wasn't enough to overcome a lackluster defensive effort that allowed the Jayhawks to shoot 50 percent (30 of 60) from the field — 17 of 28 in the second half.
"Defensively, I definitely think we let up a lot," Delle Donne said. "Defense has been our whole thing all season, so when that was failing us, that's really why things went wrong tonight."
The Jayhawks reaching the Sweet 16 seemed unlikely when the team's leading scorer Carolyn Davis went down for the season with a knee injury on Feb. 12.
Kansas lost six of eight to end the regular season and was anything but a certainty to make the tournament, but the Jayhawks have made the most of their stay so far. It's the school's first tournament appearance in eight seasons under coach Bonnie Henrickson.
"We've got a good team, but we have to find ways to win," Henrickson said. "We have to prove to the committee that we belong. We got to prove to them that we can win without her, and Angel has carried us and Aishah has been really, really good, too."
Delaware led 37-31 at halftime, but Kansas took control early in second half behind Natalie Knight. The freshman, who scored only five points in the Jayhawk' opening-round win over Nebraska, was scoreless at halftime before scoring eight points in a row at one point to put Kansas up 50-43.
That capped a 19-6 run to open the second half for the Jayhawks, and it was part of a 13-0 run that put them up 53-43 after a free throw by Chelsea Gardner, who finished with 10 points. Sutherland added 12 points and 11 rebounds despite battling foul trouble for much of the game while guarding Delle Donne.
Delle Donne took control at that point with Delaware's season on the line. She scored 12 straight points, the last three on free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point attempt, to pull the Blue Hens within 59-57.
They were never able to get closer, however, as Goodrich answered with nine of Kansas' next 11 points. Her last during the stretch came after a steal and layup on the fast break to put the Jayhawks up 68-57 — their largest lead of the game.
Delaware was unable to get closer than six points after that.
"We will be back," Blue Hens coach Tina Martin said.
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