The Elon University women’s basketball team made its first appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament on Thursday against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Though the Phoenix jumped off to an early lead, it lost 69-47.
Elon had a quick 5-2 lead two minutes into the game after a three-pointer from senior Sam Coffer and a layup from junior Josepha Mbouma. But the Yellow Jackets went on a 19-0 over a nine-minute span and never looked back.
Georgia Tech shot 15-for-28 from field goal range in the first half and 9-for-10 from the free throw line to take a 42-20 lead at halftime.
“We were missing a lot of easy shots [in the first half],” coach Charlotte Smith said. “Defensively, I feel we did not come out and play with the fire, focus, intensity and passion that we had in the two conference tournament games.”
In the second half, Elon jumped out to a short 6-1 run but Georgia Tech responded in a similar fashion to the first half. At one point, the Phoenix trailed by 30 points.
For Georgia Tech, junior Aaliyah Whiteside and sophomore Kaela Davis scored a combined 47 points. Davis, who earned a selection to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team this season, finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Whiteside had 23 points and five rebounds.
The Phoenix offense was a different story.
Elon shot 19-for-59 (32.2 percent) from field goal range. Freshman Shay Burnett led the Phoenix offense with 11 points while senior Zora Stephenson ended her collegiate career with eight points.
The season-ending loss dropped Elon's overall record to 19-13. According to Smith, the future will only get better.
“We always talk about championships being won in the offseason,” Smith said. “We are talented but we have a lot of work to do and we can be so much better.”
While Georgia Tech plans for the second round of the NIT against Ole Miss, Elon plans for the offseason.
“The biggest thing [our team can do] will be buying-in during the offseason, not just thinking or wanting to get better, but actually going out there and putting the blood, sweat and tears in while working to get better,” Smith said.