Elon women’s basketball (8-17, 3-11 in CAA) fell to No. 3 Towson University (17-9, 11-4 in CAA) 59-50 in a back-and-forth physical matchup.
After their home loss to James Madison University on Friday, head coach Charlotte Smith said this game against Towson was going to be a battle of the boards and that the team needed to “commit to grit.” Smith said this effort came in spurts.
“I’m sure I could go back and grade the film today, and I could find some segments where we were really gritty. I especially remember that in the first half,” Smith said. “For us, the biggest thing is just locking in, focusing in for 40 minutes of execution on both ends of the floor.”
From the start, the Phoenix came out aggressive, scoring in the paint through passing down low and strong drives from the top. This offensive attack was spearheaded by freshman guard Brie Perpignan who led the team in scoring for the third straight game with 14 points.
Defensively, the Phoenix carried their emotion. The team hustled down the court to stop Towson’s fast-break offense and hustled after loose balls. Early in the first half, junior guard Lexi Mercer went crashing into the video boards on the sideline going after a loose ball. But this aggressive mentality on both sides also led to 16 total fouls in the first half.
The challenge for the Elon defense was matching the strength of Towson’s forwards. This task came down to the sophomore forward duo of Anna Popovic and Emily Maupin, who contributed 13 total points and only four rebounds. The Tigers out-rebounded the Phoenix 43-33.
“They have some big players down low, and it was hard to box them out. That’s been a struggle for us all year is boxing out and finishing the play,” Maupin said.
The Maroon and Gold stood toe to toe with the Tigers in the first quarter by answering nearly every point Towson scored and limiting their runs. At the end of the quarter, the score was even at 12-12.
The back-and-forth nature of the first half was exemplified in the closing moments of the second quarter. A Towson block gave the Tigers possession with 1:24 remaining in the first half. As Towson brought the ball up the court, it was quickly stolen away by sophomore guard Ariel Colón and passed off to redshirt-freshman guard Ariana Nance for a fast-break layup. Towson would answer with a fast-break three-pointer.
Elon got the ball back with 33 seconds remaining. Perpignan brought the ball slowly up the court, winding down the clock for a last shot opportunity. She initiated her drive and passed the ball out to Colón, who immediately swung it out to Nance, who was waiting in the far corner. Nance, now isolated, faked a shot to get the defender jumping in the air, only to pull it down and drive further towards the basket. Nance again stopped and floated a shot over the top of an imposing Towson forward. The ball found nothing but the net as the time expired, cutting Towson's lead to just three points at the break.
These clutch points for Nance were just two of a 10-point performance that would match the career high for the redshirt freshman.
“It felt good, but it’s not really a surprise. I knew I always had it in me, and [Smith] has a lot of faith in me. So I thought it’s time to have faith in myself, and the results show,” Nance said.
In the second half, the Tigers started to take over the ball game. With the game tied at 36 with four minutes left in the third quarter, the Tigers went on a 7-0 run to go into the fourth, and they would never relinquish the lead. After the game, Smith said that while the effort was present, more is needed to end the Phoenix's three-game losing streak.
“We just got to find a way. I can’t say that it's good enough because it’s not. The results show itself on the stats sheet, so we just have to find a way,” Smith said.
The Phoenix hit the road next week to take on the University of Delaware (13-13, 8-6 in CAA) Friday, March 1, and Drexel University (20-5, 12-2 in CAA) Sunday, March 3.