ELON, N.C. – Ali Ford became the second player in Elon women’s basketball history to reach the 2,000-career point milestone tonight, March 20, as the fourth-seeded Phoenix (19-13) knocked off fifth-seeded Eastern Kentucky (18-12), 68-61, in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational in Alumni Gym. The victory extends Elon’s home winning streak to 11 games.
“I’m really excited we got the win. It was definitely a game where we had to knock the rust off,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “It was great to have another opportunity to play in front of our home crowd and we’re ready to keep rolling. We need to continue to fine tune the offense so we can execute and get down to making defensive stops.”
Kelsey Evans led all players with 26 points, connecting on 9-of-18 shots from the field and going a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. The senior fell just short of a double-double with nine rebounds, which leaves her four away from reaching 1,000-career boards.
Ford finished with 14 points, seven assists and three steals, while Shannen Cochraham scored in double figures with 12 points for the second straight game. Shon Redmond pulled down a career-high tying seven rebounds and claimed four steals.
Elon finished 25-of-61 from the field to shoot 41 percent, scoring 36 points in the paint. The Phoenix shot a rare 10 percent from beyond the arc (1-for-10) and connected on 17-of-25 shots from the free throw line. EKU ended its season with a 33 percent shooting clip from the field (21-of-64) and 23 percent from long distance (6-of-26).
The Phoenix started the game off slow, falling behind the Lady Colonels by eight, 16-8, at the 11:47 mark in the first half. Elon then answered with a fast-break layup by Kelsey Harris, which snapped a three-minute scoring drought for the maroon and gold, and started 12-2 run. Evans capped the run and gave Elon its first lead of the game, 20-18, with 5:52 left in the half.
Ford’s 2,000th point came at the 4:30 mark with a jumper to make it a 26-21 lead for Elon. The Phoenix led by as much as seven in the first frame, 30-23, before taking a five-point lead into the break, 34-29.
The Phoenix held the Lady Colonels scoreless for the first four minutes of the second half, claiming an 11-point lead, 40-29. The maroon and gold took its largest advantage of the game, 47-33, with 12:37 to play after a three-pointer by Ford.
EKU would not give up and managed to slowly whittle down Elon’s lead, tying the game at 57 after two Jalisa Bryant free throws at the 4:39 mark. The Phoenix responded with six straight, including four from Zora Stephenson, which forced the Lady Colonels to foul to keep the game close.
The Phoenix knocked down five of its six attempts at the charity stripe in the final 70 seconds of the game to preserve the win and keep the season alive.
Elon will play the winner of Thursday’s Mercer/McNeese State game in the second round of the WBI this weekend. Date and time are still to be determined.