ELON, N.C. – For the first time in Elon University women’s basketball history, the program will play for a Division I conference championship on Wednesday night, March 1, at 7 p.m. inside Alumni Gym when it hosts UNCW. The game will air on Phoenix All-Access and can be heard on WSOE 89.3.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
With a victory Wednesday, Elon will clinch the CAA regular season championship. The title would mark the first conference crown in Elon’s 18-year run as a Division I program. The Phoenix would finish the regular season with 24 wins and 16 conference victories. Both numbers have already topped previous Division I bests of 20 overall and 14 in conference.
The Phoenix holds an 8-5 series lead over UNCW dating back to 1978. Since Elon joined the CAA, it is 4-2 and has won each of the last four games in the series going back to March 13, 2015. The two teams met earlier in February with Elon earning a 66-56 win in Wilmington on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5.
The Seahawks snapped a four-game losing skid last time out when it defeated Northeastern 68-63 at home. Before that, UNCW had lost games at Drexel and William & Mary and at home against James Madison and Hofstra. Standing at 5-12 in CAA play, after the regular season it will have one extra win toward CAA Tournament seeding following a ruling last month from the conference.
Shay Burnett hit a layup with 3.6 seconds to play to give the Phoenix a 67-65 victory over Towson on Sunday, Feb. 26, in Maryland. Towson had the ball holding for a final shot but Raven Bankston turned it over and Elon jumped on it with 8.8 seconds to play. Out of a timeout, Elon had a play drawn for Burnett and she converted for the win. Jenifer Rhodes led the team with 18 points – three off her career-high of 21. Malaya Johnson added 15 points and eight rebounds while Burnett and Essence Baucom each had 13 points. Burnett also added eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.
With three players – Lauren Brown, Shay Burnett and Jenifer Rhodes – reaching the 1,000-career point mark this season, it marks the first time in program history a trio of teammates have reached the milestone in the same season. Before this year, two players reaching 1,000 points in the same season had been done twice by Venessa Corbett and Lou Williamson in 1979-80 and Elizabeth Ward and Laura Case in 1992-93.
Elon earned a vote in the USA TODAY Coaches poll for the first time in program history on Tuesday. It also checked in at No. 25 in the NCAA RPI, the top mid-major on the list one spot ahead of Drake (No. 27). Elon ranked No. 5 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll last week and received one first-place vote. Elon was No. 8 in the last release of the espnW Mid-Major poll.
With 23 victories this season, it marks just the second time Elon has reached the 20-win mark as a Division I program and is the first time Elon has earned the accomplishment in regular-season play. Last time Elon reached 20 wins in 2010-11, the Phoenix finished 20-13 and recorded its 20th win in the 32nd game of the season in the WBI against USC Upstate.
MAKING IT LOOK EASY
With 15 wins in conference play this season, the mark surpasses the 2012-13 season when Elon won 14 Southern Conference games. That number stood as the most wins in a conference season for the Phoenix until this year’s 15-2 mark with one game to play.
Elon’s nine-game winning streak from Dec. 17 against ETSU to Jan. 15 against Drexel was the most the team has won in a row as a Division I program. The last time Elon had won that many in a row came during a 12-game winning streak in 1981-82 under coach Mary Jackson. Elon’s only losses in the last 21 games have come against James Madison on Jan. 20 and Feb. 12 by six and seven points, respectively.
ON THE ROAD
Elon has been stellar away from Alumni Gym this season. Through the regular season, the Phoenix is 13-4 away from home, including neutral games. Prior to the loss at JMU on Feb. 12, Elon had won each of its previous nine road games. The nine-game road winning streak marked the longest streak for the program as a Division I team. The previous long was five games from Jan. 8 to Jan. 29 in 2010-11, the final season of the Karen Barefoot era.
Elon will take part in the CAA Tournament, set to be played March 8-11 at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va. With a win Wednesday night, Elon would be the No. 1 seed in the tournament and play for the first time at 12 noon on Thursday, March 9, against the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game on Wednesday, also at 12 noon. If Elon were to lose Wednesday night to UNCW, the Phoenix would be the No. 2 seed if James Madison defeats College of Charleston and would take on the winner of the No. 7 vs. No. 10 games on Thursday at 5 p.m.