Times are good for the University of Delaware basketball programs right now. The men’s and women’s squads are a combined 5-0 in CAA play on the season and each team just had its best player recognized by the league office this week. Elena Delle Donne was named the CAA women’s basketball co-Player of the Week on Monday while Devon Saddler earned men’s Player of the Week in the conference.
Saddler averaged 26 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last week while hitting on 19 of his 28 shots from the field, including 56 percent from three-point range.
That hot shooting from deep helped the Hens continue their hot start in the league on Saturday. After Delaware watched an 11-point lead evaporate in the final 1:41 at Georgia State, Saddler saved the day by banging home a game-winning trey with less than a second remaining in UD’s 86-83 victory.
It was the punctuation mark on a 29-point performance by the Aberdeen, MD native. Earlier in the week, the junior also led all scorers by pouring in 23 points during a 69-54 win over Hofstra at the Carpenter Center. On that night, Saddler moved into 10th place on the school’s career scoring list and also surpassed 1,300 points during his three years in Newark.
His efforts have helped Monte Ross’ team salvage its season. A difficult non-conference slate left the Hens licking their wounds, with the low point coming in a loss to Villanova that dropped their record to 3-8 on the year. But wins in the final two contests before CAA play began built some momentum for UD, which helped lead to wins over Old Dominion, Hofstra and Georgia State.
Saddler has been right in the middle of it all, entering the week tied for 14th among all Division I players in scoring at 20.6 points per game. He has scored 39 more points than any other player in the CAA, ranks third in the league in free throw percentage, fourth in minutes played, fifth in three-pointers made and sixth in assists per game.
As much as Saddler has mattered to the men’s team’s recent surge, Delle Donne has meant even more to Tina Martin’s squad since returning from Lyme’s Disease last month. The program’s all-time leading scorer has averaged a double-double in eight games played this season. She shared conference Player of the Week honors with Drexel’s Hollie Mershon by dropping 27 point and 13 rebounds on Old Dominion and scoring 19 points, adding seven boards and five blocked shots in a 62-27 rout of George Mason.
Delle Donne has helped the Hens win six of seven since coming back to the lineup, including victories over top-40 teams Villanova, Duquesne and St. John’s. Delaware’s lone loss over that stretch was to 10th-ranked Maryland. As a result of Delle Donne and the Hens’ recent surge, UD is receiving votes in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll.
Both Delle Donne and Saddler are hoping this won’t be the last time they earn hardware from the CAA in 2013. With the way their teams have looked of late, both have an excellent shot to capture CAA tournament championships in March. That would be the best kind of accolade either Saddler or Delle Donne could hope for.