Freshman forward Jenifer Rhodes scored a career-high 20 points as the Elon University women’s basketball team rolled past the Georgia Southern University Eagles 85-60 Saturday, Feb. 8.
“I just played my game,” Rhodes said. “They were playing me behind which gave me the opportunity to catch the ball easier and they weren’t really denying me the ball.”
Three other starters for the Elon Phoenix scored in double figures. Junior guard Zora Stephenson scored 16 points on 4 of 5 shooting from behind the arc, while senior guard Kelsey Harris and junior forward Sam Coffer added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
“We did a great job of sharing the basketball, executing offensively, and finding open shots,” Elon coach Charlotte Smith said.
Stephenson got the offense going for the Phoenix, as the Vienna, Va., native hit a pair of three-pointers to give Elon the early 15-7 lead.
“When I get the confidence, shooting the ball some of them are going to go in,” Stephenson said. “It’s just having the confidence to shoot the ball and that happened to me tonight.”
Rhodes made her presence known early on, as the freshman converted an old-fashion three-point play to give the Phoenix a double digit lead at 33-22 with 6:28 remaining in the first half. Elon closed out the first half strong as Coffer assisted a three from freshman guard Lauren Brown to give the Phoenix a 42-30 lead going into halftime.
The Eagles’ chance of a comeback was erased nearly immediately in the second half as Elon scored 20 points in the opening five minutes. Back-to-back layups from Coffer gave the Phoenix a commanding 62-36 lead.
“It always helps when we’re intense and focused defensively because we can create a lot of scoring opportunities with our defense,” said Smith. “It ignites the defense even more when you can create those opportunities."
Elon refused to ease up, as the Phoenix continued to extend their lead. A layup from junior center Shannen Cochraham capped off a 23-6 run to open the second half to give Elon a 67-36 lead with 13:28 remaining. The Phoenix managed to keep its lead around 30, as Stephenson said her shooting sparked the offensive onslaught from the rest of her teammates.
“When I start hitting shots from behind the arc it forces the dense to start focusing on me, so it opens up driving lanes,” she said. “You can dump it down into the post. Everything flows within itself.”
Rhodes continued to dominate the paint, adding another old-fashion three with 5:17 remaining to give Elon another 30-point lead at 78-48. The Phoenix was able to empty their bench in the latter stages of the contest, and came away with the 25-point victory.
The Phoenix shot the ball well, finishing at 48 percent from the field as well as a red-hot 7 of 11 from behind the arc. Despite the offensive showcase, Smith said it was defense and hustle that gave them the win.
“We are starting to let the things define us that we want to define us and that’s defense and rebounding,” said Smith.
The Phoenix outrebounded Georgia Southern 46-41, while also causing 18 turnovers and four blocked shots.
For the Eagles, senior guard MiMi Dubose was the only player in double figures scoring with 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting. Freshman guard Danielle Roberts added a pair of threes as she scored 9 points off the bench.
With the win, Elon improves to 10-12 on the year and 6-5 in the Southern Conference, while the loss drops Georgia Southern to 7-16 and 5-7 in conference play.
The Phoenix will return to Alumni Gym Feb. 10, when the Wildcats of Davidson College come to town. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.