ELON, N.C. – Strong opening and closing periods for the Elon women’s basketball team led to a 67-29 season-opening win over Lenoir-Rhyne, today, Nov. 14, in Alumni Gym. The Phoenix (1-0) outscored the Bears 38-6 in the first and final 10 minutes, including holding LR scoreless in the fourth.
“There are two focuses for this team – defense and rebounding,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “I felt like we had some great defensive spurts, especially at the start of the first and second halves. I’m very pleased with the rebounding effort. If we can continue to focus on those two things, and master them, I’ll think we’ll have an awesome season.”
Elon finished 28-of-65 from the field for a 43.1 percent mark, while going 3-of-12 from beyond-the-arc (25 percent) and 8-of-14 from the charity stripe (57.1 percent). The Bears were held to a 15.7 mark overall after going 8-of-51, including 4-of-14 from long distance, and turned the ball over 28 times.
The Phoenix held the advantage in the paint, 34-4, and on the boards, 52-31. The defense tallied 14 steals that turned into 23 points off turnovers, while also posting eight blocks.
Nikki McDonald led all players with 12 points after going 5-of-11 from the field (2-of-3 from three) and tallied five boards. Shay Burnett posted the first double-double of the season for the Phoenix with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Essence Baucom also scored in double figures with 11 points and had four assists, while Jenifer Rhodes looked strong all-around with six points, seven boards, five steals and three blocks.
With the Bears holding a 3-2 edge in the opening period, the Phoenix used an 18-0 run over a 6:39 span to take a 17-point lead, 20-3. Throughout that time, Elon saw eight straight points from McDonald. The rookie drained a three at the 6:40 mark then took a charge at the opposite end of the court 20 seconds later to get the ball back. She followed that up with another basket from long range before stealing the ball for a fast-break bucket with 4:51 remaining. The maroon and gold led by 16 after the first frame, 22-6.
In the second period, Baucom followed a defensive block with a fast-break jumper to make it a 31-9 game with 6:20 on the clock. LR managed eight straight to pull within 14, 31-17, before the Phoenix closed out the half on a 6-4 run to hold a 37-19 lead at the half.
Baskets by Baucom and Malaya Johnson got the maroon and gold off to a strong start in the second half to make it 41-19 at the 8:20 mark. Elon maintained the 22-point advantage, 51-29, to end the third period after an Autumn Carter jumper with 18 seconds left.
The Phoenix defense shined in the fourth period, holding the Bears scoreless and adding 16 points to the board for the final 38-point differential. Elon went 7-of-14 during the final 10 minutes and held LR to a 0-for-11 mark, while claiming eight steals off 12 opponent turnovers. The maroon and gold also added six blocks, including three by Rhodes.
Elon is now 29-17 overall in season openers, winning the last three straight…The Phoenix is 21-4 when opening the season in Alumni Gym…The win moves the maroon and gold to a 24-10 advantage in the all-time series against Lenoir-Rhyne…Under Charlotte Smith, Elon is 44-15 in Alumni Gym…The game was an exhibition game for the Bears.
The Phoenix makes its first road trip of the season to play the Liberty Flames in its next game on Monday, Nov. 16. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Lynchburg, Va.