While dorms may have emptied Tuesday as students traveled home for Thanksgiving break, Alumni Gym filled with excitement as the Elon University women’s basketball team fended off the Liberty University Flames by a 73-62 score and captured its first 4-0 start in 17 years.
Senior guard Zora Stephenson made a layup five seconds into the game. She and her teammates maintained their lead for the remainder of the contest. Despite offensive inconsistency and early foul trouble, Elon’s defense propelled the team to victory.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it,” Elon coach Charlotte Smith said. “I felt like we came out with a lot of intensity tonight and I felt like we followed the game plan. We did a great job of knowing what [the Flames] were running at times, and I thought that helped to be very disruptive defensively.”
Throughout the game, Elon’s defense put out the Flames. Liberty shot 6-for-30 from field goal range and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc in the first half. While Liberty posed a threat on the boards with 6-foot-4 junior Ashley Rininger and 6-foot-5 junior Katelyn Adams, the Phoenix only got outrebounded 28-27.
By the end of the night, Elon limited Liberty to a pair of threes and a 27.9 percent field goal percentage. While the Phoenix defense performed at its best, its offense struggled. The team entered the contest with the best field goal percentage in the Colonial Athletic Association, but struggled to make shots after taking an 11-3 lead by the first media timeout. Elon made just one-third of its field goals in the first goals, shot 2-for-9 from three-point range, and turned the ball over 12 times.
The Phoenix also committed a lot of fouls early on in both halves. With 9:57 remaining in the second half, Liberty was in the bonus. In the first half alone, Elon had a dozen personal fouls. But one player who played well on both ends of the court was sophomore guard Lauren Brown.
Brown shot 3-for-7 from beyond the arc and earned three assists. Defensively, she committed one foul. Following the conclusion of the game, she stressed the importance of remaining focused on how to improve rather than concerning herself with her opponents’ abilities.
“Every game, we come into the same way,” Brown said. “We say, ‘It’s Elon versus perfection,’ not necessarily Elon versus Liberty. We just focus on controlling the things we can control, which are rebounding and defensive intensity.”
The Phoenix will enjoy a four-day break from games before traveling to High Point University at 3 p.m. on Sunday. After that, the team will head to Raleigh Sunday, Dec. 7 to take on the North Carolina State University Wolfpack.