ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team snapped its five-game losing skid and opened up Southern Conference play with a 71-61 victory of Samford tonight, Dec. 14, in Alumni Gym. The Phoenix (3-5, 1-0) was led by a season-high 23 points from Zora Stephenson, who knocked down six threes, while the Bulldogs (2-7, 0-1) saw 28 points off 11 field goals from Shelby Campbell.
“What feels even better (than a win) is to have players back,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “It’s great to have a good rotation on the court and bench. Fingers crossed and knocking on wood that we stay healthy because the sky is the limit. We have a lot of talent and depth with this team.”
Elon only shot 39 percent from the field (22-of-57) but took advantage of its trips to the charity stripe, hitting 21-of-27 to shoot 78 percent. The maroon and gold also took a 45-27 advantage on the boards and scored 14 points on second-chance opportunities. All baskets from long distance for Elon came from the hands of Stephenson as the Phoenix earned a 67 percent mark after six threes on nine attempts.
The Bulldogs finished 24-of-51 from the field (47 percent), scoring 30 points in the paint, but only shot 47 percent from the line (7-of-15).
Kelsey Harris tallied 13 points, hitting nine free throws, while grabbing seven rebounds and handing out four assists. Sam Coffer finished with 11 points and recorded a game-high eight rebounds. Jenifer Rhodes made it four players in double-figures for the Phoenix after scoring 10 points.
Samford took as much as an eight-point lead, 16-8, in the first half before a three by Stephenson sparked a 13-3 run for the Phoenix to put Elon up, 21-19, at the 9:12 mark. The Bulldogs regained the lead, 24-23, but another triple by Stephenson followed by a layup by Jessica Farmer gave Elon a four-point edge, 28-24, with just over five minutes remaining in the half. Samford’s Shelby Campbell cut the Bulldog deficit to one, 32-31, before an offensive board by Lauren Brown got the ball to Stephenson to hit a three at the buzzer, her third of the half, to put the maroon and gold up by four, 35-31, at the break.
Elon shot 41 percent in the first half, hitting 14-of-34 shots from the field, including a 60 percent mark from three-point range, while Samford went 11-of-21 to shoot 52 percent.
The Phoenix kept the momentum going in the second half, opening with an 11-4 run in the first five minutes to open up an 11-point lead, 46-35, after scores by Shannen Cochraham, Stephenson and Harris. Elon took its largest lead of the game by 15, 57-42, with 8:52 to play after a freebie by Brown.
Samford responded and held the maroon and gold to one point in the next three minutes to close the gap to three, 58-55. Stephenson’s fifth three of the game broke the Phoenix’s dry spell to stop the surging Bulldogs and gave Elon a 61-55 edge with 4:50 remaining. Elon was knocked down seven of its eight free throw opportunities in the final few minutes to secure the win and top Samford by 10.
The Phoenix will continue conference play with a game against reigning league champion Chattanooga on Monday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. in Alumni Gym.