ORLANDO, Fla. – Led by new career-bests from Lexi Mercer and a strong second-half performance by Malaya Johnson, Elon University women’s basketball earned a 71-57 road victory at UCF on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 22, inside CFE Arena.
The win pushes Elon to 4-0 on the young season. It marks the second time in the last four seasons Elon has started 4-0 after opening perfect in 2014-15. With the loss, UCF fell to 2-3 with its second-straight defeat.
Right from the opening tip, Elon was on the run with Johnson tipping the jump ball right to Mercer for the easy layup three seconds into the game. Though UCF went on a 5-0 run to make it 7-3, Anna Popovic made it a one-point game with a three-pointer from the left side. After the Knights made it an 11-9 game, the Phoenix closed the first quarter on a 13-4 run with five different players chipping in over the final 3:53 of the frame.
Though both teams endured a slow start to the second quarter with a combined six points in the opening five minutes, Elon closed on a 15-5 run in the final 4:46 to take a 37-24 lead to the locker room. During the run, Elon went on an 11-0 stretch thanks to four different scorers. After a pair of UCF buckets ended the run, Shay Burnett closed the half with a putback after a Jada Graves three-pointer from the left wing rattled in and out.
Down the stretch, UCF tried to pull its way back into the contest by cutting Elon’s lead down to eight on three occasions with six minutes to play. A Mercer three-pointer in front of the Phoenix bench with 5:20 to go and eight points in the final six minutes sealed the victory, though.
Johnson scored a team-high 14 points on 6-of-12 from the floor to go with nine rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. Mercer had a career-high 12 points to go with a career-best six rebounds and three steals. Graves also finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Burnett had seven points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Aliyah Gregory totaled a game-high 22 points and Kornelia Wright was the only other Knight to finish in double figures with 10 points. Lawriell Wilson had a team-high seven rebounds and Nyala Shuler a team-best four steals.
-With the 4-0 start, it marks just the seventh perfect start through four games in program history. It’s also just the second 4-0 start since Elon became a Division I team.
-Elon trailed by four at 7-3 in the early going after a 5-0 UCF run. That marks Elon’s largest deficit of the season to date.
-Johnson has now scored 14 points in each of Elon’s four games this season.
Elon will head further into The Sunshine State to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for the Puerto Rico Clasico. First, the Phoenix will take on Alabama on Friday, Nov. 24, at 5 p.m. before closing the tournament Saturday, Nov. 25, at 5 p.m. against Iowa.