ECU Pulls Away Late to Down Elon Women’s Basketball

ELON, N.C. – A second-half surge from the East Carolina Pirates was too much for the Elon University women’s basketball team to overcome on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Alumni Gym, as the Phoenix dropped a 93-84 decision.

Trailing by only five early in the second half, Elon (2-2) saw ECU (5-0) go on a 15-2 run over the next five minutes to take its largest lead of the game, 66-48, with 12:01 to play. The Phoenix managed to pull within seven points late, but the Pirates knocked down free throws down the stretch to secure the win.

“I thought we did some great things in the end,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “But we have to control the things that we can control – defense and rebounding. I think we have to be a little more focused on containing and we need to be able to play defense one-on-one. Overall, I’m proud of the effort our team gave this afternoon.”

Elon put four players in double figures in the setback, led by 17 points from rookie Lauren Brown. Zora Stephenson added 16 points, while Jenifer Rhodes ended the day with 15 points and eight boards. Senior Kelsey Harris finished with 14 points.

Elon shot an efficient 54 percent (30-of-56) from the field, but the Pirates capitalized on 25 turnovers by the Phoenix with 33 points. ECU also took advantage of 21 offensive rebounds, outscoring Elon in second-chance points, 31-9.

ECU’s Jada Payne led all players with 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field.

The Phoenix limited ECU to just a three-point lead, 43-40, at the half. Elon shot 58 percent in the opening frame and took advantage of its opportunities at the charity stripe, knocking down 11-of-15 (73 percent) from the line.

Lenaira Ruffin quickly tied the game at 43-all out of the locker room, as the rookie banked in a three from the wing as the shot clock winded down. But the Pirates responded with two quick baskets to take a four-point lead, 47-43.

ECU controlled play over the next six minutes, as a 15-2 run put Elon behind by 18 points, 66-48, with 12:01 to play. The Pirates led by as many as 19 points in the second half.

Elon managed to make it an eight-point game, 86-78, with 1:13 to play following a Rhodes layup, but ECU knocked down free throws down the stretch with Elon in a must-foul situation in the waning moments.

Next up for the Phoenix is the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Elon will take on the Commodores in the first game of the tournament on Friday, Nov. 29, at 4 p.m. The Phoenix will play either Wisconsin or Mercer in the championship or consolation game on Saturday, Nov. 30.