ELON, N.C. – Playing in its first official contest inside its new home, Schar Center, the Elon University women’s basketball team defeated Belmont Abbey in its exhibition contest, 58-54, on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 27.
Lexi Mercer had 19 points to lead the Phoenix on 6-for-8 shooting including a 3-for-5 mark from behind the arc. Emily Maupin added 14 for Elon while rookie Micaela Ryan had 11. Junior Jada Graves led the Phoenix with eight assists.
Belmont Abbey’s Allie Downing had a double-double for the Crusaders with her game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds. Manuela Fungate also posted a double-double for Belmont Abbey with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Phoenix was slow out of the gates offensively in the opening half, shooting 7-for-35 while going 1-for-10 from downtown. Elon jumped out to 7-4 lead after a Maupin layup at the 5:57 mark in the first period, but the Crusaders went on a quick 7-1 run to take the lead 11-8 after a three-pointer by Alexis Schulz with 4:49 left in the quarter. The Phoenix held Belmont Abbey to just one point for the remainder of the period, but trailed the Crusaders 13-12 after the first.
Belmont Abbey opened the second quarter on an 8-2 run, pushing its lead to 21-14 after a layup by Fungate with 5:59 left in the period. The lead swelled to 10 for the Crusaders at the 3:52 mark on another layup by Fungate, 26-16, but Elon responded with a 7-2 run to close out the period and the half and headed into the break down 28-23.
On the other side of the break, the Phoenix started to come alive offensively as Elon shot 50 percent (8-for-16) in the third quarter while going 3-for-4 from three. Mercer scored the first five Phoenix points of the quarter, including a three-pointer at the 7:39 mark to bring Elon within two, 30-28. Belmont Abbey pushed its lead back to five after a pair of Downing free throws at the 5:26 mark, but back-to-back layups from Ryan pulled the Phoenix within one, 36-35, with 4:56 remaining in the period. Mercer gave Elon its first lead since the first quarter on a jumper that put the Phoenix ahead 37-36 with 4:34 left in the third. Both teams went back and forth for the remainder of the quarter before Elon went in front 43-42 on a Maupin three-pointer to close out the third.
The Crusaders continued to challenge Elon in the opening minutes of the fourth and took a 46-45 lead on another Fungate layup. Maupin and newcomer Brie Perpignan sparked an 8-0 run for the Phoenix over the next three-plus minutes as Elon took a 53-46 lead with 5:08 left in the game. Belmont Abbey responded with a 6-2 run of its own and brought itself within three after a three by Irelynn Davisson with just under two minutes remaining. Elon buckled down defensively as the Crusaders went 1-for-5 for the remaining two minutes while Mercer helped seal the win for Elon with her third three-pointer of the game with 17 seconds in the contest and put Elon ahead 58-52. A late layup by Downing with three seconds left concluded the final score at 58-54.
The Phoenix opens the 2018-19 regular season with its highly-anticipated contest against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Schar Center on Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. The matchup will feature Phoenix head coach Charlotte Smith – a former standout student-athlete for the Tar Heels from 1991-95 – against her alma mater and former head coach Sylvia Hatchell for the third time in her head coaching career.