The Elon University women’s basketball team started its season off on the right foot, winning its lone exhibition game 74-72 over Division II Wingate University Saturday afternoon.
Elon was able to storm out of the gates at the beginning of each half, holding a 23-7 advantage in both the first and third quarters. Head coach Charlotte Smith was excited to see the team get some real action, seeing areas of strengths and weaknesses early.
“It’s exciting to get out and play some competition other than ourselves,” Smith said. “They’re a great team, and they did a lot of things that we can take a look at the film and learn from and be a better team as we progress.”
Elon was led by double-doubles from junior guard Shay Burnett and senior forward Jenifer Rhodes. Burnett finished with a game-high 20 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and four assists, while Rhodes had 10 points and 12 boards.
“This is something that I’ve always expected from both of them,” Smith said. “They’re both capable of playing on both ends of the floor — both capable of scoring and rebounding. We just want to build on it going forward, as there’s a lot of expectations on the both of them. We just hope that these two can continue to do what they’re capable of doing.”
Elon was able to clean the glass really well against the Bulldogs, outrebounding Wingate 53-31. The Phoenix grabbed 25 offensive rebounds, a number that — without having a set goal in mind — was enough to pleased Rhodes.
“We haven’t put a specific number on it, but the coaches preach, offensively and defensively, rebounding is the key to winning games,” Rhodes said. “In practice, we’ve been working on a couple of drills to specifically focus on it.”
It was also the first game in an Elon uniform for redshirt junior Meme Garner, who had six points and five rebounds. All of her shots came from behind the line, where she shot 2-of-5. Burnett said she’s played with Garner since the two were little, noting that, “She can knock ‘em down, so if she’s open, I’m gonna pass it to her.” Smith also enjoyed seeing Garner on the court, noting the different look she presents defenses.
“We’re excited [to have Mimi playing] because that stretch-four is a pivotal position for us, and that’s where we felt we were at a slight deficit last year,” Smith said. “She brings great outside shooting, which will open it up in the inside game. We’re excited to have really good perimeter shooting today and hopefully that’ll carry on throughout the season.”
Elon will open its regular season with a 7 p.m. Preseason WNIT game at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Friday, Nov. 11. Elon will play again on Sunday, Nov. 13 before returning for its home opener the next night, a 5:30 p.m. tipoff against Rutgers University.