ELON, N.C. – For the first time in 18 seasons of Division I women’s basketball, Elon University surpassed the 20-win mark with its 21st victory of the 2016-17 season on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 19, in a 70-47 triumph over William & Mary inside Alumni Gym.
“I didn’t know how we would come out today on Senior Day, but it’s kind of surreal to see it all come full circle for the seniors,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “From their first years in the locker room and the film room to sitting them down and saying, ‘You guys will be the class that turns this program around.’ To see it all come to fruition is awesome.”
Only once before has Elon won at least 20 games as a Division I program. It came when the Phoenix went 20-13 in 2010-11, the final season before Smith took over the program. Now 13-2 in CAA play, Elon has clinched one of the top three seeds in next month’s CAA Tournament in Harrisonburg, Va.
On Senior Day, Jenifer Rhodes scored 11 points to go with six rebounds while Essence Baucom scored 10 to go with five rebounds and three assists. Malaya Johnson notched her second double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds while Shay Burnett added 11 points with seven rebounds and four assists.
The Tribe was paced by Bianca Boggs’ game-high 13 points. Boggs was the only player in double figures on the day with Latrice Hunter’s seven points the second-most on the team.
Rhodes opened the game with a layup and William & Mary answered with a three-pointer at the 8:18 mark of the first quarter. From there, the Tribe went ice cold from the floor and didn’t score again until 2.3 seconds to go in the quarter with two free throws from Marlena Tremba. During the stretch, Elon built a 16-3 advantage and led 16-5 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Abby Rendle notched the first points of the quarter but Elon then went on a 13-2 run to take the lead from nine at 16-7 with 7:50 to go to 20 at 29-9 with 4:34 to go in the half. Trading a pair of free throws and a layup apiece down the stretch of the first half, Baucom led the Phoenix with eight points in the frame while Rhodes and Johnson both added six apiece.
Out of halftime, Rhodes hit a layup to extend the Elon lead to 22 at 35-13, but William & Mary responded with a 10-2 run to bring the Phoenix advantage down to 14 with 6:13 to go. Over the remaining six-plus minutes, though, Elon went on a 15-5 run to lead by 24 at 52-28 through three.
Throughout the fourth quarter, Elon extended the lead further with its first three-pointers of the afternoon. Lauren Brown knocked down Elon’s first of the day with 5:08 to play and Meme Garner hit two triples – Elon’s last two field goals of the game – in the final 2:04 on the way to building a game-high 27-point lead.
– Before the game, Elon honored its five seniors in Jenifer Rhodes, Lauren Brown, Lenaira Ruffin, Essence Baucom and Maddie McCallie. All five players started the game.
– Elon’s 13 points allowed in the first half marks the second-fewest in a single half to date this season. The fewest came Jan. 29 with 11 Hofstra points in the first half of Elon’s 64-53 win over the Pride in New York.
– Lenaira Ruffin had nine rebounds in the first half, breaking her previous career-high of eight in a game. She finished with 12 boards in 21 minutes.
– The Phoenix pulled down 55 rebounds with William & Mary shooting just 25.9 percent from the floor. The 55 boards ends a brief stretch of two games held below at least 40 boards. Before the two-game run, Elon had grabbed at least 40 rebounds in 14 of the previous 16 games.
– With the fourth-quarter three-pointers, Elon avoided its third game of the Charlotte Smith era without a three. Only twice – Jan. 22, 2016 in a 52-41 win over College of Charleston (0-for-14) and Feb. 9, 2013, in a 63-40 loss at Chattanooga (0-for-12) – has Elon failed to make a three-pointer in a game in the nearly six full seasons under Smith.
The Phoenix will hit the road for the final time in the regular season next weekend with games at Delaware on Friday, Feb. 24, and at Towson on Sunday, Feb. 26. First tip against the Blue Hens on Friday night is set for 7 p.m. Elon defeated Delaware 69-42 back on Jan. 8 in Alumni Gym.