ELON, N.C. – Kelsey Evans hauled down her 1,000th career rebound today, March 23, as the fourth-seeded Elon women’s basketball team (19-14) fell to eighth-seeded McNeese State (20-14), 66-58, in the second round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational in Alumni Gym. Evans finishes her career as only the third player in program history to reach 1,000 points and rebounds.
Evans led all players with 28 points and finished with eight boards. Ali Ford scored 13 points, ending her impressive career with 2,020 points and 107 double-figure scoring games. Sam Coffer led the Phoenix on the glass with a game-high 10 rebounds.
Elon finished 24-of-63 from the field to shoot 38 percent, while being held to 14 percent from beyond the arc. McNeese State shot 42 percent from the field (24-of-57), including an impressive 44 percent from long distance (7-of-16). The Cowgirls won the slight advantage on the boards, 40-37.
“The biggest thing for us was that we weren’t making shots,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. Had the ball fallen for us, it might have been a different result. This (WBI) was a great experience and opportunity for us to grow and build as a program. Anytime we get more chances to play we are going to learn.”
The beginning of the fist half was tight until a Ford jumper at the 12:26 mark put the Phoenix up by five, 12-7, forcing a McNeese timeout. The Cowgirls responded with a 10-4 run to take a 17-16 lead. Smith called an Elon timeout before baskets by Evans and Coffer put the maroon and gold back up by four with nine minutes left in the half.
Elon reclaimed its five-point edge with 4:45 on the clock after a layup by Redmond to make it a 29-24 game. With two minutes to play and the Phoenix leading 31-29, McNeese was able to take the advantage after the Cowgirls’ Alaina Verdin was fouled on a three-pointer and a technical was called on Ford. McNeese made four of its five free throw attempts to take a 33-31 lead at the break.
Both teams played a fairly even first half with the Phoenix shooting 43 percent and the Cowgirls with a 44 percent mark from the field.
McNeese started the second half on a 6-2 run to take a six-point lead, 39-33. Elon answered with the next seven and regained the lead, 40-39, after an Evans pass under the basket led to a Shon Redmond layup with just under 15 minutes remaining.
The game went back and forth for the next few minutes until McNeese opened up a seven-point edge, 54-47, with 8:33 on the clock. The Phoenix chipped away and pulled within one, 56-55, after eight straight points from Evans and just under five to play.
The Cowgirls then managed to score the next seven to claim its largest lead of the game, 63-55. A three by Ford made it a five-point game with 1:08 remaining, giving the Phoenix a chance. However, Elon had only committed four team fouls thus far, forcing time off the clock before the maroon and gold could send the Cowgirls to the free throw line.
Only in the first bonus, McNeese missed in its first few trips to the charity stripe, but the Phoenix was not able to hit at the other end of the court, allowing the Cowgirls to finish with the win.
The loss snapped Elon’s 11-game home winning streak and was the first defeat for the Phoenix in Alumni Gym in the 2013 calendar year. Ford and Evans end their careers in the maroon and gold as two of the best players in program history, finishing second and sixth, respectively, on the program’s all-time scoring chart.
Officials: Tony Lippa, Kelly Moyer, Nic Cappel
Technical fouls: McNeese State-None. Elon-FORD, Ali.
Women’s Basketball Invitational – Second Round
1st 2nd Total McNeese State 33 33 66 Elon 31 27 58