ELON, N.C. – Winner of four of its last five games, Elon University women’s basketball will welcome CAA leader James Madison to Alumni Gym on Sunday, Feb. 4, for a 2 p.m. contest. Mason Stalph and Jake Young will be on the call for the game on WSOE 89.3 FM, and fans can watch the action on Phoenix All-Access.
James Madison is won eight of 10 previous meetings between the two teams. Though the Dukes won both regular-season contests in 2017, Elon beat JMU 78-60 in the 2017 CAA title game in Harrisonburg, Va., to clinch its first ticket to the NCAA Tournament in program history. In the first meeting of 2018 last month, JMU pulled out a tight 70-67 decision at the JMU Convocation Center. Last time the Dukes visited Alumni Gym, 1,412 fans packed the building to set the program’s Division I single-game attendance record.
ABOUT JAMES MADISON
A perfect 10-0 in CAA play, JMU enters Sunday’s game after an 86-41 road win over William & Mary. There, the Dukes shot north of 50 percent (51.6) for the first time this year while surpassing 80 points for the first time since the 2017 WNIT. Four players reached double figures, led by 19 from Lexie Barrier and 18 from preseason First Team All-CAA honoree Kamiah Smalls. The Dukes have now won 11 games in a row. Before the streak, JMU started its 2017-18 campaign with a 3-7 record.
LAST TIME OUT
The Phoenix shot better than 45 percent for the third-straight game Friday, Feb. 2, in a 22-point road victory over College of Charleston. The win was the second-straight road win. Before the two wins, Elon had lost its last five away from Alumni Gym. Ra’Shika White’s 17 points and nine rebounds led the way. Malaya Johnson also finishd with 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting and Saadia Munford added 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
FREE PIZZA FEBRUARY
Driven by Thomas Tire & Automotive, Elon students in attendance at all Phoenix men’s and women’s home games will get free pizza at the student entrance to Alumni Gym. This month, the men’s team has four home games and the women five against some of the conference’s best competition. Crust us, you don’t want to miss this.
Malaya Johnson became the 24th player in program history to reach the 1,000-career point club on Sunday, Jan. 21, when she scored 16 points and had 13 rebounds against Delaware. The senior is the fourth player in the last two seasons to reach 1,000 points after Lauren Brown, Shay Burnett and Jenifer Rhodes each reached the milestone in 2016-17.
TOPS IN THE COUNTRY
The Phoenix shot better than 45 percent for the third-straight game Friday, Feb. 2, in a 22-point road victory over College of Charleston. The win was the second-straight road win. Before the two wins, Elon had lost its last five away from Alumni Gym. Ra’Shika White’s 17 points and nine rebounds led the way. Malaya Johnson also finishd with 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting and Saadia Munford added 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. -With 6.0 assists per game, Shay Burnett ranks 24th in the nation. Her 119 total assists are the 33rd-most in the country. As a team, Elon’s +8.3 rebounding margin is 23rd-best in the country. Its 43.3 boards per contest is 20th-best and its 19.7 turnovers forced per outing ranks 37th. Elon has reached the free throw line 491 times this season, which ranks it the ninth-most frequent visitor to the charity stripe in the country. It’s .690 percentage, though, checks in at No. 185 of 349 teams nationally.
Elon aims to keep its opponents under 40 percent from the field in any given game. Only once during non-conference play did a team shoot above 39 percent (Iowa, 44.9). In CAA play, each of Elon’s first five opponents shot at least 39.3 percent from the field with Delaware’s 50.9 leading the way on Jan. 5. But each of its last five have been under 38.5 percent.
DEFENSE IS CLICKING NOW
To open CAA play, Elon was allowing its opponents an average of 73.8 points per game with both Delaware and William & Mary hitting 80 and 81, respectively. Consequently, Elon was 2-3 in its first five conference outings. In the five games since, the Phoenix has allowed an average of 54.0 points per game with Towson’s 61 in Alumni Gym representing the high mark. Coincidentally, the low mark of the streak is Towson’s 45 points on Jan. 28 when Elon beat Towson in SECU Arena 71-45.
CAA WEEKLY AWARDS
Following a strong opening night, Ra’Shika White was named the first CAA Player of the Week on Monday, Nov. 13. The sophomore from Charlotte, N.C., poured in 29 points on 12-of-17 from the floor while pulling down eight rebounds. The award followed two Rookie of the Week awards earned during her freshman campaign in 2016-17. Malaya Johnson earned Elon’s second CAA Player of the Week award on Jan. 22 when she scored 16 points against Towson and Delaware and had a double-double with 13 points against the Blue Hens while surpassing the 1,000-career point mark in the process.
Saadia Munford earned Elon’s first CAA Rookie of the Week honor of the season on Tuesday, Dec. 26, after scoring six points to go with a career-best 10 assists in a 28-point win over NC Central on Tuesday, Dec. 19. The Atlanta native scored or assisted on 28 points in the victory. She then collected another Rookie of the Week award Jan. 22 after a strong overall weekend in two wins over Towson and Delaware.
In 2017-18, Elon has the sixth-youngest roster in the nation with 75 percent of its players freshmen or sophomores. The roster rounds out with just three seniors and zero juniors. On a national scale, UNCG checks in with a roster comprised of 87.5 percent freshmen and sophomores to rank as the youngest squad in the country. It is followed by Florida International (80 percent), San Jose State (80 percent), Utah State (76.9 percent) and Air Force (76.5 percent).
Shay Burnett was tabbed the 2017-18 CAA Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches on Oct. 19. She was also picked as a First Team All-CAA honoree and was joined by Malaya Johnson earning Second Team All-CAA laurels. The defending champion Phoenix was selected second in the CAA this season, picking up 74 points in the poll and three first-place votes. James Madison was picked to take the crown with six first-place votes and 78 points. Drexel received the 10th and final first-place vote, but was picked to finish fourth behind William & Mary.
HOME SWEET ALUMNI GYM
Since Charlotte Smith took over the program in 2011-12, Elon has posted a 71-20 record in Alumni Gym and 8-0 this season. Last year, the Phoenix went 11-2 at home. It has not lost more than five games in Alumni Gym in a season under Smith and has won at least 10 in all six seasons to date she’s led the program. Elon’s only home losses last year came in a 76-70 defeat to James Madison on Jan. 20 and a Nov. 26 loss to ACC-foe Wake Forest, 78-68. Since the loss to JMU, the Phoenix has won 13 in a row in Alumni Gym.
PRACTICE WITH THE COMMISH
As part of the #JoeyDvsCAAChamps series, CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio practiced with the team Wednesday, Jan. 24, in Alumni Gym. Commissioner D’Antonio joined Elon for the 90-minute practice, running drills throughout before finishing the morning with free throw practice. To close, he hit five free throws in a row.
Elon will play its final two-game weekend in Alumni Gym when it welcomes Drexel on Friday, Feb. 9, and College of Charleston on Sunday, Feb. 11, to close its three-game homestand. Including the pair of games next weekend, Elon has just four games left in Alumni Gym before it moves to Schar Center in 2018-19.