UPPER MARLBORO, MARYLAND — The Elon University women’s basketball team fell apart in the fourth quarter, losing to the University of Delaware 57-50 in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Tournament Thursday afternoon.

“They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row, and I guess that proved to be true today,” said head coach Charlotte Smith. “I give a lot of credit to Delaware, they really pounded the ball inside and their post players did an outstanding job of finishing inside.”

The Blue Hens were on fire in the fourth quarter, shooting 7-of-9 from the field and a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line. Elon subsequently struggled, shooting 5-of-18 from the field and 2-of-5 from the charity stripe as Delaware outscored the Phoenix 28-12.

As a whole, Elon finished 10-of-19 from the free-throw line, a stark contrast to Delaware’s 18-of-20 from the line.

“I didn’t get super frustrated [about the free throws],” Smith said. “Of course, I wanted the shots to fall in from the free-throw line because they’re free. That’s an easy shot, and that’s a shot you have to capitalize on. That’s part of the difference in the game, is being able to get to the free-throw line and knock those shots down.”

Sophomore guard Shay Burnett led Elon with 13 points and eight rebounds despite battling foul trouble. She was named to the All-CAA First Team Tuesday night, but the foul trouble forced Burnett to watch her team struggle from the bench for a sizable chunk of the fourth quarter.

“I felt like we weren’t rebounding like we were in the first half, and they were fighting and getting loose balls,” Burnett said. “They were just out-hustling us. Period.”

Junior guard Lenaira Ruffin was a bright spot for Elon on the day, scoring a season-high of 11 points in 20 minutes. She also grabbed six rebounds — five of which came on the offensive boards. Ruffin twice grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback, displaying the effort Smith sees from her all the time.

“The one thing I can depend on from Lenaira is consistent effort and energy on the boards, and that’s what we needed today, because the shots were not falling,” Smith said. “So we needed those second-chance opportunities, and she provided those for us.”

Elon had previously beaten Delaware in both regular season matchups, winning 66-64 in double-overtime Feb. 7 at Delaware and 62-45 Feb. 26 at Elon. The win was extra special for Delaware because of the two previous losses, according to head coach Tina Martin.

“You got to give it to Elon — I congratulate Elon, they’ve had a great year, and those kids are very good players,” Martin said. “And obviously, they beat us twice in the regular season, and that just makes it that much better that we were able to pull out this win.”

Smith was quick to deter comments about the season being over, as she believes Elon has done enough to earn a postseason bit to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) or Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI).

“Well, hopefully, it’s not coming to a close,” Smith said. “We’re looking at postseason play because we had an outstanding season and this is a great team. We had a great year. Go back to our nonconference schedule and we played a very, very tough nonconference schedule. We beat UNC-Charlotte, we beat NC State, we played the number-two team in the country in South Carolina and gave them a game. And these games are on the road, at their place. We played West Virginia to a 10-point game. We played a tough enough nonconference schedule to hopefully have a postseason opportunity.”

Elon will find out if it gets to play in the WNIT or WBI Monday night.

Alex Hager and Daniel MacLaury of Elon Local News contributed to the video embedded in this article.

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