COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team hung tight with No. 2 South Carolina for 30 minutes of play but was not able to pull off the upset, falling 78-63, tonight, Dec. 22, in Colonial Life Arena. The Phoenix trailed by just seven with nine minutes left in the game before the Gamecocks closed out the game on a 22-14 run to secure the win.
“Hopefully this game will give us a lot of confidence,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “This is why we play these types of games. Being able to stay in the game with the No. 2 team in the country should give us confidence going into conference play and hopefully NCAA play as well.”
Jenifer Rhodes led all players with 19 points, just one shy of her career high, after eight field goals and a 3-of-5 mark from the line. The junior, who played in front of a home-state crowd, also hauled down four rebounds. Shay Burnett followed with 15 points and a team-high seven boards.
The Phoenix (7-3) shot 44 percent from the field after going 23-of-52, including 31 percent from long distance. The maroon and gold converted 13-of-19 attempts from the charity stripe for a 68 percent mark. Elon scored 32 points in the paint and saw 11 points from its bench.
The Gamecocks (12-0) finished with a 48 percent mark from the field (30-of-63) and hit eight threes (42 percent). USC won the battle on the boards, 34-26, and claimed 40 points in the paint. Tiffany Mitchell led the Gamecocks with 18 points and hit three baskets from beyond the arc.
With the game tied at three-all in the first period, a steal by Burnett led to a Maddie McCallie three that sparked a 7-0 Phoenix run to put the maroon and gold up 10-4 and hold the Gamecocks scoreless for a 5:42 span. USC closed the gap to one, 10-9, before a basket from long range by Lauren Brown helped Elon to an 18-13 advantage after the first frame.
In the second period, a Essence Baucom jumper as the shot clock expired put the Phoenix up by seven, 20-13. The Gamecocks answered to score 10 straight and take its first lead since the 9:19 mark in the first, 23-22, with 6:13 on the clock. USC went up by as much as eight, 35-27, with 1:57 remaining in the half before baskets by Baucom and Rhodes pulled Elon within four, 35-31, at the break.
Trailing by five in the third period, 41-36, Rhodes converted an old-fashioned three-point play and followed that up with another basket to even the score 41-all with 7:10 on the clock. The Gamecocks then held the maroon and gold without a field goal for the nearly the next five minutes before a jumper by Rhodes at the 2:17 mark. On the following defensive possession, Baucom claimed a steal that led to a fast-break layup to make it a four-point game, 51-47, with 1:58 remaining. USC closed out the period on a 4-0 run for a nine-point advantage, 56-47.
The Gamecocks took that run into the final period, taking a 65-51 lead as Elon was forced to call a timeout at the 6:41 mark. The Phoenix pulled within 12, 67-55, with 5:51 left to play but was not able to get any closer as time ran out.
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.