UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – After defeating UNCW in the quarterfinals Friday, the No. 4 seed Elon women’s basketball team (19-11) is set to take on No. 1 seed James Madison (27-3) in the CAA Women’s Basketball Championship semifinals on Saturday, March 14, at 1 p.m. in The Show Place Arena.
A Look at the Phoenix
After being selected to finish sixth by the league’s head coaches in October, the Phoenix defied expectations by tying for third in the regular season with a 10-7 mark and earning the tournament’s four seed. Elon is 19-11 on the season, which marks the best regular-season record for the maroon and gold under fourth-year head coach Charlotte Smith.
Last Time Out
After suffering two defeats at the hands of fifth-seeded UNCW during the regular season, fourth-seeded Elon avenged the losses with a 60-48 win over the Seahawks in the quarterfinals of the CAA Women’s Basketball Championship. The Phoenix was led by a career-high 15 points from junior walk-on Josepha Mbouma who went 4-of-6 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Rookie Shay Burnett also finished in double figures with 10 points and hauled down a team-high seven rebounds. Sam Coffer tallied eight points and seven rebounds in the game, while Malaya Johnson recorded a career-high five blocks to help the Phoenix to eight team blocks.
Scouting the Dukes
JMU earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament after a 17-1 conference record this season and is 27-3 overall after a 64-49 win over eighth-seed Towson in the quarterfinals. The Dukes leads the league in scoring margin with a 17.5-point advantage over opponents. The Dukes sit atop the conference in scoring offense (77.1 points/game) and every rebounding category with an 10.3 rebounding margin over opponents, which also ranks ninth nationally. Junior Precious Hall, the 2014-15 CAA Player of the Year, leads the team and the league in scoring with 21.0 points per game, also ranking 18th nationally, and is ranked fifth in the nation in three-point field goals made (3.2/game). Lauren Okafor, who also earned All-CAA First Team honors, leads the conference on the boards with 10.0 per game and averages a double-double with 12.7 points/game.
The only previous meetings between Elon and JMU came this year as part of the conference regular-season schedule. The Dukes won both meetings – a 68-51 victory in Alumni Gym on Jan. 15 and an 89-60 final in Harrisonburg, Va., on Jan. 30.
Elon in Division I Conference Tournaments
After its first CAA tournament win on March 13, Elon owns an 11-14 all-time record in conference tournaments since moving to the Division I level in 1999. The Phoenix went 4-4 in the Big South Conference tournament from 1999-2003 and 6-10 in the Southern Conference Tournament from 2003-2014. Last season as the No. 5 seed, the maroon and gold advanced to the tournament semifinals for the second straight year after a 59-56 win over fourth-seed Appalachian State before falling to top-seeded Chattanooga, 77-44.
Elon holds a 26-24 all-time record in games played in March. As a player and assistant coach at UNC spanning 13 seasons, Elon head coach Charlotte Smith experienced a combined record of 60-20 (.750) in the month of March.
Division I Conference Tournament Records
Elon reached its highest scoring output in its first game of the 2004 Southern Conference Tournament when the Phoenix posted 84 points in a win over East Tennessee State. The maroon and gold recorded its second highest score with 70 points in its win over Samford in 2013. Ali Ford holds Elon’s record for most individual points scored in a SoCon tournament game with her 25 points in a 2011 game versus Furman. Kelsey Evans’ 14 rebounds against Appalachian State four years ago rank as the most in a single game by an Elon player since the school became a member of the SoCon in 2003-04. Prior to the Southern Conference, Elon was a member of the Big South Conference from 1999-2003.
Down to the Wire
Seven of the last nine games for the Phoenix have all come down to the wire with the final point differential no more than four points in each game. Elon claimed wins over CofC and William & Mary by four points and victories at Northeastern and against Delaware in overtime by one, while falling to UNCW by four, Hofstra by two and Drexel by three.
Seniors Zora Stephenson and Sam Coffer are both moving up the list in Elon’s record book. Stephenson has made 226 three-pointers in her career and is currently third in the record book in that category, just eight triples from tying second. Her 80 baskets from three this season already ranks fifth on Elon’s single season record list. Coffer currently ranks fourth on the all-time blocked shots record list with 125 career blocks.
Spark of the Bench
The extra spark that Elon has had off the bench has been a tremendous asset so far this season. The Phoenix is out scoring its opponents, 652-483, in bench points. Sophomores Lauren Brown and Jenifer Rhodes have been a big part of the team’s depth with the two players averaging 8.1 and 8.0 points per game, respectively.
Elon currently ranks first in the conference and 38th nationally with 4.9 blocked shots/game, while Malaya Johnson (1.3) ranks fourth, Jenifer Rhodes (1.2) ranks sixth and Sam Coffer (1.1) ranks eighth in the league in blocks. Elon posted a season-high 11 blocks in its game at NC State on Dec. 7 and again at Hofstra on March 1. That mark tied a team-high mark under head coach Charlotte Smith. The only other time the Phoenix has recorded 11 blocks in a game in the last four years was at Georgia Southern on Jan. 13, 2014.
On the Defensive
On the defensive side of the ball, Elon is first in the league in blocked shots (4.9/game), fourth in field goal defense (39.2 percent), fifth in three-point field goal defense (31.2 percent) and fifth in steals (7.6/game).
From the Field
Elon is first in the CAA in field-goal percentage and fifth in field-goal percentage defense. The Phoenix owns a 42.5 shooting percentage 29 games into the season, while holding opponents to 39.2 percent. Malaya Johnson is second in the league with her 52.0 shooting percentage, while Shay Burnett (47 percent) and Jenifer Rhodes (46.7 percent) rank 11th and 13th, respectively.
Beyond the Arc
The Phoenix is shooting 35.9 percent from the three-point line and is third in the league in the long-distance shooting category. The team is fifth in three-point defense with opponents only shooting 31.2 percent from beyond the arc. Two Elon players currently rank in the top 10 in the conference in three-point field goal percentage. Zora Stephenson (38.6 percent) ranks third and Lauren Brown (38.3) percent ranks fourth. Stephenson also ranks 24th nationally with 2.76 three-point field goals per game.
Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her fourth season with the Phoenix and owns a 69-55 career record. Smith led Elon to its second straight Southern Conference Tournament semifinal appearance and a 10-8 overall conference record last season, while coaching the team to a 10-7 regular-season record in its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association this year.
If Elon knocks off the top-seeded Dukes, the Phoenix will play the winner of the No. 7 Delaware vs. No. 3 Hofstra game in the championship final on Sunday, March 15, at 1 p.m.