WILMINGTON, N.C. – Despite trailing by only four in the final minute, the Elon women’s basketball team was not able to overcome UNCW tonight, Jan. 22, and complete a comeback, falling by a 76-68 final in Trask Coliseum.
“There were times where we were fighting back to get out of the deficit but we just made too many mental mistakes in the first half,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “In the first half, we did not have an offensive rhythm and we’re a whole lot better when we’re playing together and looking for open shooters. I commend UNCW, they’re a great team and played really hard, but I felt like tonight we beat ourselves. We have to understand that every game is important and be focused for every game and ready to play. We made too many mental mistakes that didn’t give us a chance to turn the corner.”
The Phoenix (11-7, 4-3 CAA) hit a season-high 11 threes in the game, with nine falling in the second half, to shoot 42 percent from long distance. Overall, Elon went 22-of-62 in the game to finish with a 35 percent mark from the field, while hitting 11-of-26 from the charity stripe (72 percent).
Five of Elon’s baskets from long range were from Zora Stephenson who finished with a team-high 15 points. Sam Coffer and Lauren Brown scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Coffer also hauled down seven rebounds. Essence Baucom handed out a game-high seven assists and recorded three steals.
The Seahawks (7-11, 3-4 CAA) finished with a 43 percent mark from the field after a 24-of-56 night but was held to 21 percent from beyond the arc with only three baskets from long distance. UNCW claimed a 46-33 edge on the boards and saw three players in double figures, including a game-high 22 points from Kelva Atkins.
The Seahawks got off to a quick start taking a 13-3 lead in the first five minute, forcing an Elon timeout at the 15:11 mark. A Coffer three closed the gap to eight, 16-8, and snapped a scoring drought for the Phoenix with 13:02 on the clock. UNCW led by as much as 21 in the first frame before three straight points by the Phoenix in the final 24 seconds, including an offensive rebound and jumper at the buzzer by Mbouma, made it a 39-21 game at the break.
Elon was held to a 25 percent mark from the field in the opening half, including an 18 percent clip from three, while hitting 3-of-6 from the line. UNCW shot 48 percent off a 15-of-31 mark and was 25 percent from long distance. The Seahawks held a 27-19 advantage on the boards and an 11-0 edge in fast-break points.
Out of the break, Elon closed the gap to 12 after back-to-back threes by Burnett and Stephenson made it a 41-19 game with 16:32 on the clock. After another Stephenson triple made it a 48-35 game at the 14:27 mark, UNCW scored the next six straight points to move back ahead, 54-35.
From there, the Phoenix hit three straight baskets from long distance, two by Brown and one by Stephenson, in the span of 80 seconds to make it a 10-point game, 54-44, with 10:27 on the clock. Two made free throws by Johnson then cut the deficit to just eight points, 54-46.
Stephenson hit her fourth three of the game to keep the maroon and gold within eight, 58-50, before a layup by Rhodes made it only a seven-point game, 59-52 with under five minutes to play. Elon would come as close as four points four times in the final 30 seconds but was forced to foul as UNCW made all 10 free throws in the final minute to maintain its victory.
The Phoenix returns home for its next game before three straight games on the road to host Northeastern on Sunday, Jan. 25. Tip is set for 3 p.m. in Alumni Gym and will also be televised on the American Sports Network.