ELON, N.C. – Set for its second consecutive NCAA Tournament, 13th-seeded Elon University women’s basketball will look for its first win in the Big Dance on Friday, March 16, when it takes on fourth-seeded NC State inside Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., at approximately 3 p.m. Friday’s game will air on ESPN2 and online via WatchESPN with John Brickley and Mike Thibault on the call. The game can also be heard over the airwaves on WSOE 89.3 FM with Mason Stalph and Drew Gentry calling the action from Raleigh.
TICKETS TO THE GAME
Tickets to Friday’s First Round games in Raleigh are available at GoPack.com. Elon’s designated fan sections are 209 and 210. Tickets for adults are priced at $17 with youth aged 17 and under priced at $12. Ticket orders include seats for both Elon/NC State and Maryland/Princeton beforehand at 12:30 p.m. Fans will be directed to park in the Reynolds Coliseum parking deck near Dail Soccer Field.
PARTY WITH THE PHOENIX
Come join other Elon alums, parents and fans as they cheer on the Phoenix during the 2018 NCAA Tournament! The pregame social will take place at Aloft Hotels at 2100 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. The free social will include food and drinks. To register for the event, click here.
NC State leads the series 9-1, but each of the last two games have been battles with the two teams splitting the contests. Last time the two met in December 2017, NC State outscored the Phoenix 25-12 in the second quarter and took a 36-22 lead to halftime, which is the largest halftime deficit Elon has faced all year. After an even third quarter, Elon trailed by 13 heading to the fourth at 51-38. In the final 10 minutes, Elon battled its way back within five with 1:27 to go with an 11-2 run after trailing by 14 with 4:55 left. But in the final 87 seconds, NC State’s Kaila Ealey hit eight free throws to seal the win.
Prior to this season’s meeting in Raleigh, the two also battled on Dec. 13, 2015, with Elon taking a 69-66 victory at Broughton High School. Trailing by one after three quarters, Elon outscored NC State 20-16 in the fourth quarter to take the victory. With just over a minute to play, Lauren Brown stole the ball and put Elon up 66-62 with a fast-break layup. Though NC State responded to come back within two with 37 seconds left, Maddie McCallie was fouled and hit two free throws to give Elon a 68-64 lead with eight seconds to play and Brown added two more free throws in the final seconds to close the win.
ABOUT NC STATE
Led by Chelsea Nelson’s 13.4 points per game, the Wolfpack stands at 24-8 on the season after making a trip to the ACC Semifinals earlier this month thanks to victories over North Carolina and 18th-ranked Duke before falling to No. 4 Louisville 64-59 in its last game on March 3. Ranked in both national polls, NC State has won 12 of its last 15 games and is ranked sixth nationally in rebounding margin at +10.1. In comparison, Elon is 23rd in the country in the category at +7.9. NC State has rolled in most of its victories this year, winning 21 of its 24 games by 12 points or more.
LAST TIME OUT
Elon claimed its second consecutive CAA Tournament title on Saturday, March 10, with a 57-45 win over top-seeded Drexel in Philadelphia. The win makes Elon the second team in CAA Tournament history to have won the title without being seeded No. 1 or No. 2 with the first occasion coming in 1992 when third-seeded Old Dominion beat top-seeded East Carolina. Elon has now won six consecutive CAA Tournament games in a row with an average margin of victory of 21.0 points. In this year’s title game, the Phoenix hit six of its first seven shots from the floor to set the tone. Down the stretch, Elon led 49-31 heading to the fourth quarter, but Drexel went on a 14-2 run to open the frame and came within six at 51-45 with 4:01 to play. Elon’s defense settled back in, though, and didn’t allow Drexel another point the rest of the way en route to lifting the trophy.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE?
-With a win, Elon would earn its first NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Last year, the 11th-seeded Phoenix dropped a 75-62 contest to sixth-seeded West Virginia in College Park, Md.
-A victory would also push Elon to 14 wins in a row, which would extend what’s already the program’s longest Division I streak.
-A win would move Elon on to Sunday’s second-round matchup in Raleigh against fifth-seeded Maryland or 12th-seeded Princeton. Tip time would be determined after first-round action Friday.
-Maryland is 25-7 this year and went 12-4 in Big Ten play. It lost three of its last four to Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan before winning its regular-season finale against Nebraska. In the tournament, it beat Indiana and Nebraska before falling to Ohio State.
-Princeton is 24-5 and went 12-2 in Ivy League play. It has won four in a row and beat Penn in the Ivy League title game to advance to the Big Dance. Not long ago in 2014-15, Princeton went 31-1 with the lone loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tourney.
Elon has won 13 games in a row going back to Jan. 28, which sets a new program record for the longest streak of the Division I era. Before this one, Elon had won nine in a row last year from Dec. 17, 2016, to Jan. 15, 2017, on the way to the CAA regular season and tournament titles. The current streak is the first of the Division I era to go at least 10 games and the seventh going back to the start of the program in 1972.
Entering the tournament, Elon’s current 13-game winning streak ties for the seventh-longest active streak in the nation with Northern Colorado. UConn’s 32-game streak leads the way, followed by Baylor (28), Mercer (27), Belmont (22), Quinnipiac (22) and Drake (21). Northern Colorado is coached by Kamie Ethridge. Both Ethridge and Charlotte Smith assisted Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio each of the last two summers with Team USA’s U18 and U19 teams. In 2016, the team won gold at the FIBA Americas Championships in Chile and silver in 2017 at the FIBA World Cup in Italy.
In the last 16 games, Elon’s defense has been as strong as ever in allowing just 52.4 points per game going back to Jan. 19 against Towson. During the run, Elon is 15-1 with the lone loss a 58-56 defeat at Drexel on Jan. 26. Each of Elon’s first five CAA opponents all shot at least 39.3 percent with Delaware’s 50.9 on Jan. 5 the highest. During that stretch, Elon was 2-3 and allowed 73.8 points per game. Elon aims to keep its opponents under 40 percent from the field in any given game. Only once during non-conference play did a team shoot above 39 percent (Iowa, 44.9).
PERFECT AT HOME
Riding an 18-game winning streak in Alumni Gym, it marks the longest unbeaten run at home in Elon’s D-I history. The current streak started Feb. 3, 2017, with an 83-55 win over Towson. Before that, Elon had seven D-I streaks reach five in a row with a pair hitting 11 (Nov. 26, 2002 to Feb. 15, 2003 and Dec. 13, 2012 to March 20, 2013). Under Charlotte Smith, Elon has won at least five in a row at home four times. Elon will play its home games in Schar Center in 2018-19.
This season, Elon posted a perfect 13-0 record, which marks the first perfect home season in its Division I history and the second in program history. The first perfect season was 7-0 in 1974.
HOME SWEET ALUMNI GYM
Elon is 76-20 in Alumni Gym since Charlotte Smith took over before the 2011-12 season went a perfect 13-0 this year. Elon has not lost more than five games at home in a season under Smith and has won at least 10 in all seven seasons she’s led the program. Elon’s last home loss came Jan. 20, 2017, in a 76-70 loss to James Madison. In the last two seasons, Elon is 24-2 in Alumni Gym with the other loss a 10-point defeat against Wake Forest.
As a team, Elon’s +7.9 rebounding margin is 23rd-best in the country. Its 42.2 boards per contest is 28th, its 1,349 total boards is 17th and its 18.3 turnovers forced per outing ranks 56th. Allowing opponents to shoot 34.9 percent from the floor this season, that ranks as the 10th-best mark in the country.
Malaya Johnson became the 24th player in program history to reach the 1,000-career point club on Sunday, Jan. 21, when she scored 16 points and had 13 rebounds against Delaware. The senior is the fourth player in the last two seasons to reach 1,000 points after Lauren Brown, Shay Burnett and Jenifer Rhodes each reached the milestone in 2016-17.
Highlighted by Shay Burnett’s third consecutive First Team All-CAA nod, Elon had five student-athletes earn awards Wednesday, March 7. While Burnett was a First Team honoree, Malaya Johnson and Ra’Shika White picked up Second Team All-CAA honors and Saadia Munfordmade the All-Rookie Team. White was also named the league’s Sixth Player of the Year and Jada Graves earned CAA Defensive Player of the Year with a spot on the All-Defensive Team.
CAA WEEKLY AWARDS
Elon players earned seven weekly honors this season. They are:
CAA Player of the Week
Nov. 13: Ra’Shika White
Jan. 22: Malaya Johnson
Feb. 5: Malaya Johnson
March 5: Shay Burnett
CAA Rookie of the Week
Dec. 26: Saadia Munford
Jan. 22: Saadia Munford
Feb. 12: Jaylin Powell
In 2017-18, Elon has the sixth-youngest roster in the nation with 75 percent of its players freshmen or sophomores. The roster rounds out with just three seniors and zero juniors. On a national scale, UNCG checks in with a roster comprised of 87.5 percent freshmen and sophomores to rank as the youngest squad in the country. It is followed by Florida International (80 percent), San Jose State (80 percent), Utah State (76.9 percent) and Air Force (76.5 percent).
Shay Burnett was tabbed the 2017-18 CAA Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches on Oct. 19. She was also picked as a First Team All-CAA honoree and was joined by Malaya Johnson earning Second Team All-CAA laurels. The defending champion Phoenix was selected second in the CAA this season, picking up 74 points in the poll and three first-place votes. James Madison was picked to take the crown with six first-place votes and 78 points. Drexel received the 10th and final first-place vote, but was picked to finish fourth behind William & Mary.
Elon is No. 15 this week in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll after standing at No. 17 last week, No. 20 two weeks ago and No. 24 each of the previous two weeks before that. Standing at No. 31 in the NCAA RPI, it marks the highest ranking for the Phoenix this season.
PRACTICE WITH THE COMMISH
As part of the #JoeyDvsCAAChamps series, CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio practiced with the team Wednesday, Jan. 24, in Alumni Gym. Commissioner D’Antonio joined Elon for the 90-minute practice, running drills throughout before finishing the morning with free throw practice. To close, he hit five free throws in a row.
Should Elon advance, it will take on fifth-seeded Maryland or 12th-seeded Princeton on Sunday, March 18. Tip time for that contest will be determined after the conclusion of Friday’s games in Raleigh. With a win Friday, stay tuned to ElonPhoenix.com and @ElonWBasketball on Twitter for updates about tickets, television and Phoenix Club socials.