ELON, N.C. – For the first time since becoming the head coach of the Elon women’s basketball team, Charlotte Smith will face her alma mater when the Phoenix (5-3) takes on No. 6 North Carolina (9-1) on Sunday, Dec. 21, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Tip is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Last Time Out
The Phoenix snapped a three-game losing skid with a great all-around performance at Campbell on Wednesday with a 77-51 win over the Lady Camels. Elon shot a season-high 55 percent from the field (31-of-56), including tying a season-high 42 percent from beyond the arc. The maroon and gold hit eight of its 10 three-pointers in the second half and won the battle on the glass, 39-30. Rookie Malaya Johnson was nearly unstoppable in the post with a career-high 22 points after going 10-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from the charity stripe. Johnson also added six rebounds and three assists, both career highs. Zora Stephenson lit it up from three with a 5-of-10 mark from long distance and a season-high 17 points. Shay Burnett and Lauren Brown made it four Elon players in double figures with 11 points each and both shot over 65 percent from the field. Essence Baucom led the team on the boards with a career-high nine rebounds and handed out five assists.
Scouting the Tar Heels
Sixth-ranked UNC is coming off its first loss of the season in the form of a 70-55 setback against No. 16 Oregon State on Tuesday. Prior to its game against the Phoenix, the Tar Heels will take on Maine on Friday in Myrtle Beach. Despite the loss to the Beavers, UNC has defeated four top-25 teams so far this season – No. 5 Stanford, No. 18 Rutgers, No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 23 UCLA. The Tar Heels are shooting 42 percent from the field on the season and average 43 rebounds per game. Three UNC players are averaging in double figures, including sophomore Allisha Gray who scores 17.7 points/game. Stephanie Mavunga averages 12.3 points/game and leads the team on the glass with 8.2 rebounds/game.
The Phoenix and the Tar Heels have not met since Nov. 13, 2007. Prior to that, the teams have played eight other times since 1974 with UNC holding the 7-2 advantage in the series. Elon’s Smith was on the Tar Heel bench as an assistant coach for UNC during the last four games played in the series in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007.
The UNC Connection
Sunday marks the first time Elon head coach Charlotte Smith has faced her alma mater. Smith was a four-year starter at UNC from 1991-95 and is the most decorated player in women’s basketball history. She is one of two women’s basketball players at UNC to have her jersey retired. Smith was named the ESPN National Player of the Year in 1995 following a career in which she scored over 2,000 points and hauled down 1,200 rebounds. She is perhaps best known for her performance in the 1994 NCAA Championship game when her buzzer-beating three-pointer gave UNC the national title with a 60-59 win over Louisiana Tech. From 2002-2011, Smith served as an assistant coach for her former head coach and mentor Sylvia Hatchell. Smith left Chapel Hill to take the job as the Phoenix head coach in June 2011.
Hatchell on Smith
When Charlotte Smith was named the Elon head coach in June 22, 2011, UNC head women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell had this to say about Smith, “I am so proud of Charlotte. She has been an incredible asset to Carolina women’s basketball for two decades. Our program owes so much of its success to her hard work both as a player and a coach and she will be greatly missed. That said, I couldn’t be happier for Charlotte to begin her career at an up-and-coming program like Elon. Not only are they getting an outstanding coach, but they are getting an even better person, and we wish her nothing but the best of luck.”
Another Elon Tar Heel
Along with Coach Smith, Elon assistant coach Josh Wick is also a Tar Heel graduate. Wick is a 2001 graduate of North Carolina where he received a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a minor in exercise and sport science. He also spent three years as the women’s basketball video coordinator for the Tar Heels under Sylvia Hatchell.
Elon vs. Ranked Opponents
Sunday’s game marks the first for Elon against a ranked opponent over 13 years. The last time the Phoenix played a ranked team was on Nov. 16, 2001, when the maroon and gold fell to No. 4 Duke, 102-52, in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Elon is 0-7 all-time against ranked opponents since joining the Division I level.
Malaya Johnson had herself a game on Dec. 17 when the Phoenix picked up a 77-51 win over Campbell. The rookie put together a career-high day with a 10-of-12 performance from the field and went 2-of-3 from the line for a career-high 22 points. Johnson also added six rebounds and three assists, both career highs. Her 22 points marked the first 20+-point game for a Phoenix this season.
Elon posted a season-high 11 blocks in its game at NC State on Dec. 7. That mark tied a team-high mark under head coach Charlotte Smith. The only other time the Phoenix has recorded 11 blocks in a game in the last four years was at Georgia Southern on Jan. 13, 2014. Elon currently ranks first in the conference and 20th nationally with 5.4 blocked shots/game. Sam Coffer is second in the league in blocks with 1.8 per game, while Jenifer Rhodes (1.2) ranks seventh.
On the Defensive
The Phoenix defense has played strong so far this season and ranks in the top of several CAA defensive categories. Elon is first in blocked shots (5.4/game), second in field goal defense (41.2 percent), second in three-point field goal defense (25.5 percent) and fourth in defensive rebounds (26.5/game).
The Century Mark
Sam Coffer is nearing the century mark in career games played. The senior has played in 99 games so far in a Phoenix uniform and has earned the start in 93 of those contests.
Beyond the Arc
The Phoenix is shooting 34 percent from the three-point line and is fifth in the league in the long-distance shooting category. The team is second in three-point defense with opponents only shooting 25.5 percent from beyond the arc. Two Elon players currently rank in the top five in the conference in three-point field goal percentage. Lauren Brown ranks second (52 percent) and Zora Stephenson is fifth (39 percent).
From the Field
Elon is second in the CAA in field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense. The Phoenix owns a 41.2 shooting percentage eight games into the season, while holding opponents to 39 percent. Malaya Johnson ranks third with her 53.1 shooting percentage, while Shay Burnett (51 percent) and Jenifer Rhodes (50 percent) rank fifth and sixth, respectively.
Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her fourth season with the Phoenix and owns a 55-47 career record. Smith led Elon to its second straight Southern Conference Tournament semifinal appearance and a 10-8 overall conference record last season.
After the holiday break, Elon returns home to host former Southern Conference opponent Furman in Alumni Gym on Monday, Dec. 29. The game against the Paladins is set to tip at 7 p.m.