ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team maintained its perfect mark on the season with a 73-62 win over Liberty (2-2) tonight, Nov. 25, in Alumni Gym. The Phoenix is now 4-0 for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
The Phoenix went 24-of-64 from the field to shoot 38 percent, including an 8-of-23 mark from three (35 percent). Elon also shot a season-high 81 percent (17-of-21) from the charity stripe. The Phoenix turned 20 Liberty turnovers into 23 points, while 27 points came from the Elon bench.
Liberty was held to a 28 percent shooting mark on the night after a 19-of-68 performance from the field and was held to a 14 percent clip from three after only hitting two baskets from beyond the arc. The Flames went 73 percent from the free throw line and out rebounded the Phoenix, 54-41.
“It wasn’t pretty but we will take it,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “I thought we had great intensity and pressure on the ball from the point guard position. We wanted to try and take them out of their rhythm offensively and we did a good job of that. We also wanted to try and wear them down by rotating players in and out in the hopes that their shots wouldn’t fall in the second half.”
Zora Stephenson led the Phoenix with 14 points, including a perfect 4-for-4 mark from the free throw line. Shay Burnett went 4-for-7 from the field to score a career-high 11 points, while Lauren Brown tallied nine points with all three of her baskets coming from beyond the arc. Essence Baucom recorded eight assists, three steals and led the Phoenix on the boards with six rebounds.
Elon got off to a quick start with a 9-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. The Flames responded with a 15-4 run that spanned almost eight minutes and made it a two-point Elon advantage, 15-13. With 9:42 on the clock, Lauren Hudson hit a jumper followed by a Baucom steal that turned into a Sam Coffer fast-break layup less than 40 seconds later to put the maroon and gold back up by six, 19-13. Elon led by as much as eight with 5:30 remaining before Liberty was able to cut its deficit to three, 29-26, with under two minutes left in the half. After a missed three by Lenaira Ruffin, Burnett grabbed the rebound to hit a jumper with one tick remaining to give the Phoenix a 33-28 lead at halftime.
The Phoenix shot 33 percent in the first frame (12-of-36) and 22 percent from three. Liberty was kept to a 20 percent mark from the field with only six field goals and no baskets from long distance.
Out of the break, Elon extended its lead to double digits, 38-28, in a hurry with a three by Brown and a Stephenson jumper less than 90 seconds into the second half. After a three by Liberty’s Simone Brown made it a four-point game, 39-35, with 16:54 on the clock, the Phoenix answered with a Stephenson three that started a 13-4 maroon and gold run that lasted just over five minutes to go up by a 13-point margin, 52-39, with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Flames were only able to come within seven points, 52-45, at the 8:05 mark before the Phoenix began to pull away. Elon reached its largest lead of the game, 63-49, with three and a half minutes remaining. Liberty was forced to foul down the stretch to try and stay in the game but the Phoenix hit eight of nine shots from the line in the final 60 seconds to secure the victory.
Elon returns to action for the first of two straight road games on Sunday, Nov. 30, at High Point. Tip against the Panthers is set for 3 p.m. in High Point, N.C.