ELON, N.C. – Elon University opened Sunday afternoon’s game on a 19-3 run and held off James Madison the rest of the way to claim a 50-43, wire-to-wire victory inside Alumni Gym on Feb. 4.
“We were really mentally locked in on our defensive assignment,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “We talked about the importance of knowing the scouting report and executing our defensive game plan and Jada Graves did an outstanding job of staying active the whole entire time she was in there. We wanted to limit them to contested shots and not let them get to the basket and we did that very well.”
Now 15-7 overall and 7-4 in the CAA, Elon has won 14 in a row at home going back to the 2016-17 season with its last loss in Alumni Gym on Jan. 20, 2017, to JMU. It has also won three in a row in CAA play for the first time this season. No longer perfect in CAA play, James Madison had its 11-game winning streak snapped and is now 14-8 overall and 10-1 in conference action.
Elon has held James Madison to its two worst shooting percentages in the last six seasons over the course of the last two seasons. The Phoenix held the Dukes to 21.4 percent on Sunday and to just 22.6 percent in last year’s CAA title game on March 11, 2017. The 21.4 percent is the Dukes’ lowest shooting percentage in a game since James Madison shot 19.0 percent on Jan. 25, 2004, in a home loss to Hofstra.
The Phoenix opened the afternoon hitting nine of its first 16 shots while JMU’s first field goal came more than eight minutes into the game. With Elon’s hot start, it opened on a 19-3 run behind a 15-1 stretch after two JMU free throws made it 4-2 in the first 94 seconds. During the game-opening run, Shay Burnett and Malaya Johnson combined for 11 of the 19 points and Saadia Munford added four more.
Elon’s 19 points in the first 7:46 proved crucial over the course of the last three quarters, as the 16-point lead marked the biggest lead of the day. JMU closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the Phoenix advantage to 10 after one quarter. It then extended that run to 11-3 early in the second after a Kamiah Smalls three-pointer cut Elon’s lead to 22-14. But the Phoenix answered with a Burnett bucket and a Meme Garner three-pointer to go back up 13.
After halftime, where Elon led 29-22, JMU opened the third on a 7-2 run to slice Elon’s margin to two at 31-29. The Phoenix responded with another Burnett layup that was followed by a Lexi Mercer three-pointer in front of Elon’s bench that brought the lead back to seven, the margin Elon would take to the fourth quarter.
Opening the final 10 minutes, Elon pushed the advantage back to double digits at 44-34 after a pair of Johnson free throws with 7:23 to play, but the Dukes clawed back with a 9-2 run to get within 46-43 with 2:15 left. Lexie Barrier’s free throws with 135 seconds to play, though, marked JMU’s last points of the day with James Madison missing each of its final five shots and making just two of its final 13 attempts.
Burnett had a stellar afternoon with a game-high 17 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. Johnson was the only other Phoenix in double figures with 13 points. Both players shot 6-of-13 from the floor. Graves had a standout day on the defensive end, tying her career high with 10 rebounds – nine on the defensive glass – to go with four steals.
Smalls posted a team-high 15 points to lead JMU. She was limited to 5-of-15 from the floor and was 3-of-9 from three-point land. Kelly Koshuta added 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. No other Duke scored more than Devon Merritt’s seven points. Logan Reynolds had a team-high eight rebounds to go with five points
-JMU managed just 15.4 percent from the floor in the final quarter while shooting 20 percent in the second half. That ties for the third-lowest shooting percentage in a quarter and represents the second-lowest percentage in a half by a Phoenix opponent this season. College of Charleston also shot 15.4 in the second quarter in Elon’s last game on Friday, Feb. 2.
-The Phoenix is now 5-1 in its last six games with the lone loss a two-point defeat on the road against Drexel, which is now in a tie for first place with JMU in the CAA at 10-1.
-Elon is 3-0 all-time on Super Bowl Sunday. It also played on the NFL’s big day each of the previous two seasons and beat Delaware 66-64 and UNCW 66-56.
-Elon dominated on the offensive end in the paint with a 30-12 advantage down low.
-The Phoenix also finished with 11 assists on 19 made baskets. JMU finished with five assists on 12 buckets.
Elon will be home for a pair of games next weekend, starting with Drexel on Friday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. Last month, Elon dropped a 58-56 contest in Philadelphia to the Dragons. With two games in Alumni Gym next weekend, it marks the last two-game weekend at home of the season and the team will have just two more home games down the stretch of the campaign.