LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's primary goal against Delaware will be like all Blue Hens' opponents: try to keep All-American Elena Delle Donne from taking control of the game.
It's not the first time this season the Wildcats have faced one of the sport's best players.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell believes his team learned from their experience against the game's most imposing player — 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner — in an 85-51 loss to Baylor. The 6-5 Delle Donne presents a different challenge; she rebounds, is a willing passer and averages 25.8 points — but she can dominate from the perimeter.
Delaware's supporting cast also makes it difficult to focus solely on Delle Donne, but having faced Griner and an even more balanced Baylor team, the Wildcats feel prepared for the round of 16 showdown in Bridgeport, Conn.
"We believe we're ready," said Wildcats senior guard A'dia Mathies, coming off a 34-point performance in Tuesday's 84-70 win over Dayton. "We believe we can beat anybody in the nation if we come with our best effort and play how we can play at the top of our level.
"We're not really worried about anybody else, we're just focused on ourselves. If we play like Kentucky should play, we should have a great outcome."
Still, Kentucky (29-5) enters the Bridgeport Regional respectful of how Delle Donne makes things go for sixth-seeded Delaware (32-3), winners of 27 straight.
Delle Donne originally signed with UConn before abruptly leaving after a short stay to return home to Delaware. She scored 11 of her 33 points from the foul line to rally the Blue Hens past North Carolina 78-69 on Tuesday. She has scored more than 3,000 points in her Delaware career. She didn't have to carry the load by herself — Trumae Lucas (20 points) and Danielle Parker (14 points, 13 rebounds) had big games against the Tar Heels.
Delle Donne also averages 8.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. The versatility that allows her to play anywhere on the court makes her a difficult matchup. But the Wildcats can't just focus on Delle Donne, they have to account for the other Blue Hens as well.