WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball team was able to hold off a fighting UNCW team to open Colonial Athletic Association play with a win, 67-60, on the road today, Jan. 3, in Trask Coliseum.
“I felt like the early foul trouble that we had took us out of our rhythm offensively,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “Defensively, we had some let downs in transition defense. UNCW is a great transition-offense team and we weren’t as focused as we needed to be. Wins are not going to be easy. Every team in the CAA is going to be competitive and we have to come prepared to fight.”
Elon saw 13 points from both Essence Baucom and Shay Burnett, while Lauren Brown followed with 12 points. Malaya Johnson posted a team-high nine rebounds and tallied four blocks.
The Phoenix (8-4, 1-0) finished 23-of-65 from the field to shoot 35 percent, including six threes (32 percent), and hit 15-of-22 from the charity stripe for a 68 percent mark. Elon finished just four rebounds shy of its season high, winning the battle on the boards, 45-38. The Seahawks (4-8, 0-1) went 20-of-56 for 36 percent from the field but was held to three baskets from beyond the arc (25 percent). UNCW claimed a 77 percent mark from the line (17-of-22) held a 26-18 advantage in the paint.
UNCW’s Jasmine Steele tallied a team-high 13 points, while Jordan Henry posted the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
With the game tied at four-all in the first period, a three by Baucom at the 5:34 mark sparked a 7-0 run for the Phoenix to move in front, 11-4, and hold UNCW scoreless for over six minutes. A jumper by Lenaira Ruffin with 27 seconds remaining in the frame kept the maroon and gold ahead by a seven-point advantage, 16-9.
Elon used a three by Brown with 5:21 on the clock to take its largest lead of 11, 24-13. The Seahawks responded with a 14-3 run to even the score at 27-all with 1:08 remaining, forcing a Phoenix timeout. With the game still tied and 45 seconds left in the half, UNCW’s Rebekah Banks was called for a foul followed by a technical on the head coach, sending both Josepha Mbouma and Ruffin to the line. The Phoenix hit all four chances and Baucom hit a long-range jumper in the final second to make it six straight for the maroon and gold and a 33-27 lead at the break.
After a Burnett three made it a 38-33 game with 7:52 to play in the third period, the Seahawks evened the game again 38-38 at the 4:03 mark. Elon answered with a three by Ruffin, 41-38, with 3:39 on the clock before the score saw its sixth tie of the game, 41-all. With 1:05 on the clock, a Baucom basket from long distance made it a 46-43 maroon and gold advantage before UNCW claimed a layup in the final 30 seconds for a 46-45 score heading into the final frame.
Eleven seconds into the fourth period, Brown hit her second three of the game to put the Phoenix ahead by four, 49-45. The Seahawks took its first lead since the 8:58 mark in the first, 49-48, before a layup by Rhodes put Elon back in front with 8:17 to go. With the Phoenix leading by two, 58-56, with 3:42 to play, Elon was sent to the line eight times, converting four times to take a 62-56 advantage with 1:03 remaining. Johnson finished an easy layup with 32 seconds left as free throws by Maddie McCallie and Baucom helped secure the seven-point win.
This is the second straight year Elon has opened CAA play on the road and the second straight win…The game marks the first regular-season victory for Elon over UNCW in the CAA…The Phoenix now leads the all-time series with the Seahawks, 6-5.
The Phoenix returns to Alumni Gym for the first time in three weeks and in 2016 to host its CAA home opener on Friday, Jan. 8, against Hofstra in a 7 p.m. tip.