The Elon University women’s basketball team pulled away late to defeat Western Carolina University on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 19, as the Phoenix came away with the 67-52 victory.
“Happy to get the win. I felt we did a great job defensively and rebounding, just controlling the things we can control,” said head coach Charlotte Smith.
Senior guard Kelsey Harris led the Phoenix in scoring with 15 points and going 7 of 10 from the free throw line, and junior forward Sam Coffer chipped in with a double-double scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
The Phoenix shot 38.5 percent from the field on 25 of 65 shooting including 4 of 10 from behind the arc. Elon’s defense held Western Carolina to just 33.9 percent from the floor including an ice-cold 5 of 28 from behind the arc.
“We try to play at a pace where we wear people down…and our goal is to wear their shooters down so at the end of the game, their legs aren’t there to make those shots,” said Coach Smith.
Senior guard Wakama Rena hit a three-pointer in the early-going to give the Catamounts a 5-2 lead, but the Phoenix would soon establish firm control of the game. After Rena’s three, Elon went on a 17-2 run in which Western Carolina failed to make a shot from the floor during the 7:20 run.
“I felt like we were doing a great job defensively,” Smith said. “In our press defense we were able to capitalize off turnovers and that ignited some quick offense for us.”
Freshman guard Lenaira Ruffin hit one of her three three-pointers coming off the bench to cap of the run giving the Phoenix their largest first half lead of the game.
“I made my first one so I was feeling it a little bit…my teammates kept telling me to keep shooting and they kept getting me open,” said Ruffin.
Western Carolina mounted a strong first half comeback. Back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore guard Lindsey Simpson and junior forward Makensey Campbell cut Elon’s lead from ten down to just four with 8:50 remaining in the first half. The Catamounts were then able to tie the contest up at 25 after a layup from junior guard Justin Taylor. A put back from Coffer gave the Phoenix a slim leading going into the break with the score, 31-28.
The tight contest continued in the second half as the sides exchanged leads and baskets. In ten-plus minutes of the second half, the game was tied five times. Western Carolina was able to knot the contest up at 47 after a jumper from sophomore forward Erika Joseph, but that would be the last push from the Catamounts.
Elon closed the second half on a 20-5 run allowing the Phoenix to balloon its lead to a game-high 16. Despite their best efforts, the Catamounts were unable to put any dent in their deficit and found themselves walking out 15-point losers.
“We clamped down defensively in the final few minutes…and we finally got the defensive stops that we needed,” said Harris.
For the Catamounts, Wakama lead all scorers with 16 points on 6 of 14 from the field. Taylor was the only other player in double figures for Western Carolina, tallying 11 points off the bench.
With the win, Elon improves to 8-11 and 4-3 in the Southern Conference, while the loss drops Western Carolina to 9-9 and 3-4 in conference play.
The Phoenix will now travel to Greenville, S.C., to take on Furman University in another SoCon clash. Elon will not return to Alumni Gym until Saturday, Feb. 1, when it hosts local rival University of North Carolina at Greensboro.