ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team (18-11) is set for its first CAA Women’s Basketball Championship with action beginning for the fourth-seeded Phoenix on Friday, March 13, in the quarterfinals against fifth-seeded UNCW (14-15). Tip is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in The Show Place Arena. Tickets for Elon’s games are available through the Elon Ticket Office at 336-278-6750.
A Look at the Phoenix
After being selected to finish sixth by the league’s head coaches in October, the Phoenix defied expectations by tying for third in the regular season with a 10-7 mark and earning the tournament’s four seed. Elon is 18-11 on the season, which marks the best regular-season record for the maroon and gold under fourth-year head coach Charlotte Smith.
Last Time Out
Elon capped the regular season in exciting fashion with a 77-76 overtime victory against Delaware on March 4 in Alumni Gym on senior night. The game was still tied, 73-73, with 2:17 left in overtime before a three by Shay Burnett followed by a free throw by the rookie put the Phoenix up by four, 77-73, with 1:12 remaining. UD’s Erika Brown converted an old-fashioned three-point play to pull within one, 77-76, with 56 seconds left. After the Phoenix turned the ball over, the Blue Hens missed two scoring opportunities in the final 25 seconds for the maroon and gold to book end its first season in the CAA with another win over Delaware. Burnett led the Phoenix with 19 points and five assists to go along with five rebounds. Zora Stephenson hit three baskets from long distance on the night for 13 points, while Autumn Carter posted a season-high 13 points and five rebounds. Sam Coffer led the team on the boards with 10 rebounds.
Scouting the Seahawks
After starting the conference season 4-7, UNCW closed out the regular season with a 6-1 record, including four straight wins. Two of the Seahawks’ last four wins came in overtime and three wins were by no more than three points. UNCW has the third-best scoring offense in the conference, averaging 66.1 points per game, and shoots 40 percent from the field. The Seawhawks own a positive 3.4 rebounding margin over its opponents and haul down 40.3 boards per game. Senior Kelva Atkins leads the team and ranks second in the CAA in scoring with 17.0 points per game, while sophomore Naqaiyyah Teague hauls down 8.0 rebounds per game and is fourth in the league. Brie Mobley and Shantia Cole also average in double figures for the Seahawks with 13.3 and 10.2 points/game, respectively.
Friday’s quarterfinal game marks the 10th all-time meeting between UNCW and Elon. The teams have played a non-conference game the last two seasons but this year marks the first of CAA competition between the two programs. The Phoenix won the non-conference matchups each of the last two years, before the Seahawks claimed both wins during the regular-season this year. UNCW took the 76-68 victory in Wilmington, N.C., on Jan. 22 before an 86-82 win in Alumni Gym on Feb. 12. The all-time series currently belongs to UNCW with a 5-4 advantage.
The CAA announced its 2015 CAA Women’s Basketball Postseason Honors on Wednesday, March 11, with five Phoenix players earning all-conference honors. Freshmen Shay Burnett and Malaya Johnson were named to the All-Rookie Team, while seniors Sam Coffer and Zora Stephenson and sophomore Lauren Brown earned All-Academic Team honors. Burnett and Johnson have each earned rookie weekly accolades this season and rank in the top 11 players in the league in field goal percentage. Coffer, Stephenson and Brown all boast a 3.48 GPA or above in their respective majors.
Elon in Division I Conference Tournaments
Elon owns a 10-14 all-time record in conference tournaments since moving to the Division I level in 1999. The Phoenix went 4-4 in the Big South Conference tournament from 1999-2003 and 6-10 in the Southern Conference Tournament from 2003-2014. Last season as the No. 5 seed, the maroon and gold advanced to the tournament semifinals for the second straight year after a 59-56 win over fourth-seed Appalachian State before falling to top-seeded Chattanooga, 77-44.
Elon holds a 25-24 all-time record in games played in March. As a player and assistant coach at UNC spanning 13 seasons, Elon head coach Charlotte Smith experienced a combined record of 60-20 (.750) in the month of March.
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith knows a little something about winning championships. While playing collegiately at North Carolina, Smith hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to earn the Tar Heels the 1994 NCAA national championship. She also led UNC to back-to-back conference crowns her junior and senior seasons.
Division I Conference Tournament Records
Elon reached its highest scoring output in its first game of the 2004 Southern Conference Tournament when the Phoenix posted 84 points in a win over East Tennessee State. The maroon and gold recorded its second highest score with 70 points in its win over Samford in 2013. Ali Ford holds Elon’s record for most individual points scored in a SoCon tournament game with her 25 points in a 2011 game versus Furman. Kelsey Evans’ 14 rebounds against Appalachian State four years ago rank as the most in a single game by an Elon player since the school became a member of the SoCon in 2003-04. Prior to the Southern Conference, Elon was a member of the Big South Conference from 1999-2003.
Where is Elon?
Founded in 1889, Elon University is a 620 acre-campus located in Elon, N.C., adjacent to Burlington, a city of about 50,000. Elon is 20 minutes east of Greensboro and 50 minutes west of the Raleigh/Durham area.
Play 4Kay, Everyday
Besides its annual Play 4Kay game, the Elon women’s basketball team has a special connection to the Play 4Kay initiative throughout the entire year. The late Kay Yow, the hall of fame coach and catalyst for Play 4Kay, was the first head coach of the women’s basketball program, as well as the Elon volleyball program, and served in that role for four years.
The Century Mark
On Dec. 21, Sam Coffer played her 100th game in a Phoenix uniform and has now earned the start in over 100 games after the game against College of Charleston on Jan. 11. Teammate Zora Stephenson reached the same mark of 100 games played on Dec. 31 against Lenoir-Rhyne followed by fellow senior Shannen Cochraham, who played her 100th career game against Delaware on March 4.
Down to the Wire
Seven of the last eight games for the Phoenix have all come down to the wire with the final point differential no more than four points in each game. Elon claimed wins over CofC and William & Mary by four points and victories at Northeastern and against Delaware in overtime by one, while falling to UNCW by four, Hofstra by two and Drexel by three.
Seniors Zora Stephenson and Sam Coffer are both moving up the list in Elon’s record book. Stephenson has made 226 three-pointers in her career and is currently third in the record book in that category, just eight triples from tying second. Her 80 baskets from three this season already ranks fifth on Elon’s single season record list. Coffer currently ranks fourth on the all-time blocked shots record list with 125 career blocks.
Spark of the Bench
The extra spark that Elon has had off the bench has been a tremendous asset so far this season. The Phoenix is out scoring its opponents, 636-477, in bench points. Sophomores Lauren Brown and Jenifer Rhodes have been a big part of the team’s depth with the two players each averaging 8.1 points per game, respectively.
Elon currently ranks first in the conference and 38th nationally with 4.9 blocked shots/game, while Malaya Johnson (1.3) ranks fourth, Jenifer Rhodes (1.2) ranks sixth and Sam Coffer (1.1) ranks eighth in the league in blocks. Elon posted a season-high 11 blocks in its game at NC State on Dec. 7 and again at Hofstra on March 1. 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.
On the Defensive
On the defensive side of the ball, Elon is first in the league in blocked shots (4.9/game), fourth in field goal defense (39.2 percent), fifth in three-point field goal defense (31.2 percent) and fifth in steals (7.6/game).
From the Field
Elon is first in the CAA in field-goal percentage and fifth in field-goal percentage defense. The Phoenix owns a 42.5 shooting percentage 29 games into the season, while holding opponents to 39.2 percent. Malaya Johnson is second in the league with her 52.0 shooting percentage, while Shay Burnett (47 percent) and Jenifer Rhodes (46.7 percent) rank 11th and 13th, respectively.
Beyond the Arc
The Phoenix is shooting 35.9 percent from the three-point line and is third in the league in the long-distance shooting category. The team is fifth in three-point defense with opponents only shooting 31.2 percent from beyond the arc. Two Elon players currently rank in the top 10 in the conference in three-point field goal percentage. Zora Stephenson (38.6 percent) ranks third and Lauren Brown (38.3) percent ranks fourth. Stephenson also ranks 24th nationally with 2.76 three-point field goals per game.
Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her fourth season with the Phoenix and owns a 68-55 career record. Smith led Elon to its second straight Southern Conference Tournament semifinal appearance and a 10-8 overall conference record last season, while coaching the team to a 10-7 regular-season record in its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association this year.
If the Phoenix advances to the semifinals, Elon would face either No. 1 James Madison or the winner of the No. 8 Towson/No. 9 College of Charleston game. The semifinal game will take place on Saturday, March 14, at 1 p.m.