PHILDELPHIA – Hot shooting from the onset helped third-seeded Elon University women’s basketball advance to the CAA title game with a 76-53 victory over second-seeded James Madison on Friday night, March 9, inside the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
“I am incredibly proud of our team and the way we performed, said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “It was an amazing performance to watch. We talked about going into this game controlling the controllables, and what we can control is our attitude, our energy and our effort. We knew that rebounding was going to be important and we wanted to do a really good job of boxing out and we just shot the ball extremely well and I’m proud of them for going into the game with a lot of confidence because we didn’t play our best basketball Thursday. But we went into this game with a lot of confidence, shot the ball well and we defended really well.”
The victory, which pushes Elon’s winning streak to a Division I program record 12 in a row, moves the Phoenix to 24-7 on the season. James Madison now stands at 21-10 on the year and awaits its postseason fate.
Though JMU got on the board with a pair of free throws on its first possession, the Phoenix answered with a 14-3 run to open up a nine-point lead in the first 4:14 of the contest with Meme Garner and Lexi Mercer each knocking down three-pointers during the run. In the closing minutes, the Dukes closed the gap but Elon took a five-point lead at 17-12 to the second quarter.
To open the second, Kayla Cooper-Williams hit a layup to bring JMU within three, but the Phoenix hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to push the lead to 12 at 26-14. While JMU battled back again within seven at 28-21, Elon closed the half on a 14-4 run in the final 4:47 to lead by 17 at the break.
After James Madison outscored the Phoenix 15-13 in the third quarter, Malaya Johnson went to work to open the fourth with three consecutive buckets to push Elon’s lead to a game-high 21 points. Though Kamiah Smalls ended the run with two free throws, the Phoenix continued to push the lead to as many as 26 with four points from Shay Burnett and three from Ra’Shika White with 5:06 to play on the way to the 23-point victory.
Garner finished her night with a team-best 15 points to go with five rebounds. All 15 of her points came on three-pointers, as she went 5-of-6 from the distance. White added 14 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes and Johnson had 14 points on 7-of-11 from the floor. Mercer rounded out Elon’s double-figure scorers with 12 points on 4-of-7 from the floor with a 3-for-5 mark from distance. Burnett also had nine points with a game-best 10 assists.
Kelly Koshuta notched a game-high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Smalls was the only other Duke to finish in double figures with 13 points. No other Duke scored more than Aneah Young and Logan Reynolds six points. Kayla Cooper-Williams finished with four points and a team-best eight rebounds.
-Elon has now defeated JMU in consecutive games for the first time in the series. The Phoenix has also won three of the last four against the Dukes going back to the 2017 CAA title game in Harrisonburg, Va.
-Moving on to Saturday’s title game, this marks the third title game in Elon’s Division I history.
-Elon has now won five consecutive CAA Tournament games with winning margins of at least 17 points in each game.
-Shay Burnett finished with eight assists in the first half alone.
-Shooting 52.7 percent, Elon has now shot above 50 percent in five of its last six and six of its last eight going back to Feb. 11. It has shot at least 45 percent in each of its last eight games.
Advancing to the CAA title game for the second time in as many years, Elon will meet top-seeded Drexel on Saturday, March 10, at 1 p.m. on its home floor. Only once has a team lower than the No. 3 seed won the CAA Tournament, it came when third-seeded Old Dominion beat No. 1 East Carolina in 1992.