RALEIGH, N.C. – Elon University women’s basketball dropped a 62-35 contest in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 16, to NC State inside Reynolds Coliseum to end its 2017-18 campaign with a record of 25-8.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team and the season that we had,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “I’m really proud of our seniors and everything they contributed to this program over the four years. I’m really disappointed we had to go out this way. We did not play our best basketball, got in a lot of quick foul trouble early in the game, and that took us out of our rhythm and momentum offensively. We could never find a rhythm, felt like from the first quarter. I told them, ‘Let’s just continue to fight, end this game fighting. Don’t give up,’ and they did just that. So I’m proud of the team.”
Elon’s, the No. 13 seed in the Kansas City region of the NCAA Tournament, caps its campaign with its largest defeat of the season at 27 points. Fourth-seeded NC State, now 25-8 on the year, moves on to the second round on Sunday, March 18, and will take on fifth-seeded Maryland.
Though Lexi Mercer knocked down an early three-pointer, the Phoenix only managed one more field goal with 1:14 to go in the opening frame on a Saadia Munford layup. Shooting 15.4 percent on 2-of-13 from the floor in the opening frame, the Phoenix managed just eight points while NC State doubled up the Phoenix in the first quarter at 16-8.
Headed to the second, Elon’s defense had settled in nicely throughout the final five minutes of the first quarter and it carried over in holding NC State without a field goal in 9:45 of game action spanning the two quarters. A Shay Burnett three-pointer 20 seconds into the frame brought Elon within five at 16-11, but the Phoenix couldn’t shake a rough shooting start and wasn’t able to cut further into the NC State lead before Akela Maize scored four points in 20 seconds to push the Wolfpack lead back to nine at 20-11. Down the stretch in the first half, Aislinn Konig had five points in the last 57 seconds to help NC State lead by 10 at 27-17 at the break.
Looking to make a run out of halftime, Malaya Johnson hit a layup 18 seconds into the third quarter, but the Wolfpack answered with a 10-0 run to take a 37-21 lead with 5:45 left. Though the two teams were even in the final 5:17, the Wolfpack took a a 17-point lead at 47-30 to the final frame. Over the course of the final 10 minutes, the Phoenix could only manage five points while NC State pushed its lead to as many as 28 on the way to the 62-35 win.
Burnett was the only Phoenix in doubles figures with 12 points. She also had six rebounds and four assists. Ra’Shika White added five points with five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench, but no other Phoenix scored more than three points.
Kiara Leslie ended the day with a game-high 13 points on 5-of-8 from the floor with four rebounds. Konig added 12 points on 5-of-9 from the floor with five rebounds. Chelsea Nelson missed a double-double by one point, posting nine points with 12 rebounds. Erika Cassell also added nine points and five rebounds off the bench.
-The 35 points is the fewest in a game Elon has scored since it scored 31 at Drexel on Jan. 17, 2016.
-Elon had its streak of nine-straight games shooting 45 percent or better snapped in shooting 23.5 percent from the floor. The percentage is the lowest in a game this season.
-The team’s 13-game winning streak, the longest in its Division I history, was also snapped with the defeat.
-Shay Burnett closes her career with 1,567 points, which is the fourth-most in program history. She also finishes with 894 rebounds to place fourth in program history and 563 assists to place second.
-Malaya Johnson’s career comes to an end with the fourth-most blocks in team history with 172.
-Over the course of the last two seasons, Elon has posted a combined 52-15 record with a regular-season CAA title, two CAA Tournament championships and two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Expected to return nine of its 12 student-athletes from a team that won 25 games for the second year in a row, Elon will bring back two starters in Lexi Mercer and Saadia Munford while also returning the team’s second-leading scorer in Ra’Shika White. Jada Graves, the CAA’s Defensive Player of the Year, will also be back in 2018-19 for the program’s first year playing its home games inside Schar Center.