ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team looks to add another upset to the books this season as the Phoenix heads to Columbia, S.C., to face No. 2 South Carolina on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Colonial Life Arena. The game will air on SEC Network+ and will be available online only via the WatchESPN app for those who have access to regular SEC Network.
Last Time Out
Elon extended its current win streak to four games with a 80-69 victory over High Point on Saturday. The Phoenix saw a season-high 17 points from Essence Baucom, who tied her career-high scoring mark with a 5-of-7 mark from the field, went 7-of-8 from the line and tallied six assists. The maroon and gold shot 42 percent from the field after going 27-of-64, including a 27 percent mark from three, and went 22-of-28 from the line for 79 percent. Elon also added nine blocks in the game compared to two by the Panthers and scored 28 points off 23 HPU turnovers. Shay Burnett tallied 16 points for the maroon and gold after also going 7-of-8 from the line. Jenifer Rhodes added 13 points and posted a game-high seven rebounds.
Scouting the Gamecocks
After falling in the national semifinals last season, resigning Southeastern Conference champion South Carolina is off to an 11-0 start this season as the No. 2 ranked team in the country. The Gamecocks last played on Sunday and tallied an 88-57 victory over East Carolina. The game against the Phoenix marks the final non-conference matchup for USC this season, as well as the team’s last game of 2015. South Carolina ranks seventh in the nation in blocked shots per game (6.2) and is 20th in field-goal percentage with a 46.5 mark. The team is 14th in scoring margin, outscoring opponents by an average of 22 points, while also outrebounding the competition 10.4 boards per game. Leading scorer A’Ja Wilson (18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game) ranks eighth in the country in blocks per game with 3.13/game and ranks 18th in double-doubles with five this season. Alaina Coates owns a 67.9 field-goal percentage, which is fourth nationally, and averages 13.0 points and 9.1 boards per game.
Elon and South Carolina have only met on the hardwood three times in program history and once this century. The series began in 1975 with Elon taking wins at home in both games played that season. The Phoenix and Gamecocks didn’t face one another again until three years ago in the 2012 season opener. USC claimed a 77-44 win in that outing on Nov. 9, 2012, in Columbia, S.C.
Elon vs. Ranked Opponents
Since joining the Division I level, Elon has never beaten a ranked opponent, holding an 0-8 record. The Phoenix last played a ranked team on Dec. 21, 2014, when it fell to No. 6 North Carolina, 85-67.
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley are former teammates from their professional playing days with the Charlotte Sting. Staley, who played for the Sting for seven years, and Smith played together for six years before Smith went on to play for the Washington Mystics. Both coaches also played collegiate basketball for Atlantic Coast Conference member institutions.
At 7-2 after nine games into the season, Elon is off to its best start since the 1997-98 season and its best in the Division I era.
Only a Dozen
A total of 12 points is all the separates Elon from a perfect record this season. The Phoenix fell at Liberty by nine, 72-63, on Nov. 14 and dropped its only other loss of the season in a 73-70 double overtime final at Navy on Nov. 24.
Elon’s 17 total team blocks on Nov. 29 against East Tennessee State marked a new Division I single-game high this season and also set a new CAA single-game record. The Phoenix saw five players set new or match career highs in blocks against the Buccaners in Malaya Johnson (5), Autumn Carter (4), Essence Baucom (2), Lauren Brown (2) and Maddie McCallie (1). Elon is currently averaging 6.1 blocks per game as a team, which ranks ninth nationally and first in the league.
On the Boards
Elon currently ranks 50th in the nation and second in the conference in rebounds per game (43.11/game). The Phoenix holds a positive 4.7 advantage in the rebounding margin, which is third in the CAA, is second in the league in defensive rebounds (29.1/game) and is third in offensive rebounds (14.8/game).
Off the Bench
The Elon bench has been a contributor to the maroon and gold’s success this season. The Phoenix bench is outscoring the opponents, 191-137, and averaging 21.2 points per game.
The Elon defense tallied an impressive 14 steals in its win over Lenoir-Rhyne on Nov. 14 and another 10 at Liberty on Nov. 16. The Phoenix is averaging 8.6 steals per game, while opponents are managing 7.6.
Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her fifth season with the Phoenix and owns a 76-59 career record. Smith has led Elon to three straight conference tournament semifinal appearances, as well as an at-large bid to the 2015 WNIT, the first in program history, after a 19-13 overall record and 11-7 league mark in its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Alumni Gym has proven to be a tough place to play for opponents under head coach Charlotte Smith. The maroon and gold is 47-15 in Alumni Gym in five seasons under Coach Smith. The Phoenix went 10-5 at home during the 2014-15 season after a 10-4 record during the 2013-14 season. The Phoenix has lost no more than five games at home in a season and out scored its opponents 1,001-963 on Robertson Court last year.
Elon returns to action after the holiday break to take on West Virginia on Monday, Dec. 28, in Morgantown, W.Va., in a 7 p.m. tip in WVU Coliseum.