NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Tina Martin is no historian. That didn't stop the Delaware coach from weighing in on the significance of a victory that thrust the Blue Hens into the Sweet 16 for the first time.
"This is without question the greatest victory in Delaware sports history," Martin declared after the No. 6 Blue Hens pulled out a 78-69 victory over No. 3 North Carolina on Tuesday night before a packed house that included Vice President Joe Biden.
Elena Delle Donne scored 33 points in her final home game, and now the Blue Hens are headed to Connecticut to face Kentucky. If Delaware pulls off another upset, it could face UConn for the right to play in the Final Four.
Delle Donne initially accepted a scholarship to Connecticut before quickly leaving with a bad case of homesickness. She enrolled in Delaware, enjoyed a great career, and now she's headed back to the state where it all started.
"I enjoy the irony that I'm playing in the Sweet 16," Delle Donne said with a sheepish grin. "Obviously, I'll be in Connecticut. That's great. It's a beautiful state and I'm excited to play there."
Delle Donne surpassed the 3,000-point mark in a game she was absolutely intent on winning.
"I don't think I've wanted anything more than this win, and that's saying a lot," she said.
After the final buzzer, Delle Donne had mixed emotions as she and her teammates gathered in the middle of the court and waved to the 4,653 screaming fans.
"It was a little sad, it was emotional, saying goodbye," she said. "But to leave this way is absolutely incredible. I even said to the girls before the game, 'We deserve to win our last game on this court. That's how everybody played."
Biden was on hand to watch it happen, and afterward he visited the Delaware locker room to congratulate Martin and the players.
"He talked about the fact that he told President Obama to pencil us in (his bracket)," Martin said. "He gave everybody big hugs, gave everybody personal greetings, whispered some words of encouragement to our team and just said how very proud he is of our team."
Biden, it seems, couldn't stay in his seat as the game reached its exciting conclusion.
"The president of the University of Delaware said that the vice president kept standing up and blocking everybody's view," Martin said. "A few people wanted to say, 'Mr. Vice President, please sit down,' but I don't think the vice president would have sat down. He's been one of our biggest fans. We certainly are honored and humbled he came to see us tonight."