The Elon University women’s basketball team fell on the road against No. 17 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels handed the Phoenix a 68-39 loss Nov. 18 and dominated the second half at Carmichael Arena — doubling Elon’s scoring output en route to their fourth victory to remain undefeated this season.
UNC’s scoring efforts were led by junior forward Maria Gakdeng, senior forward Alyssa Ustby and senior guard Deja Kelly. The trio combined for 42 of the Tar Heel’s total points. Gakdeng and Kelly were both named to the preseason all Atlantic Coast Conference team.
While Elon lost by 29 points after UNC capitalized on a dominant second half, the Phoenix competed in the opening stanza as they were within striking distance the whole time.
While the Phoenix competed early, they could never close the gap to pull ahead of the Tar Heels. Elon tied the game in the opening minute at two points apiece thanks to sophomore guard Regina Walton; however, UNC would lead the contest for the rest of the afternoon.
Elon graduate student guard Jessica Booth was able to get a couple of looks to fall early in the first quarter — as was the first off the bench for the Phoenix: 5 '4 freshman guard Maraja Pass. Pass squeezed two layups by the lengthy UNC backline which consists of 6 '1 Ustby and 6 '3 Gakdeng.
Elon’s lack of size was evident in their paint points, as UNC had 32 in comparison to Elon’s 16.
To close the opening quarter, Elon senior forward Ajia James was able to cash in on a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three points at 15-18. James’ 3-pointer was the only attempt from behind the arc that the Phoenix connected throughout the entire afternoon, as they went 7% — or 1-of-14.
After pulling to within one to open the second quarter, Elon slowly watched the Tar Heel lead swell. Elon handled their possessions sloppily throughout the remainder of the game, as they turned it over 21 times.
Comparatively, UNC turned the rock over 11 times.
While Elon kept it within 10 for the entire second quarter up until the final seconds, the Heels got some cushion heading into the break. A 3-pointer by UNC graduate student guard Lexi Donariski put the Heels up 36-23, marking their largest lead of the night.
Booth, graduate student guard Vanessa Taylor and junior forward Iycez Adams all chipped away at the Tar Heel lead early in the third quarter. But UNC capitalized on a potent performance from Gakdeng, who scored seven points and pulled down four boards, and pulled away.
Carolina made back to back 3-pointers in the last minute quarter, expanding their lead to 22.
The Heels continued to stick with what had been working in the fourth quarter, as the trio of Ustby, Gakdeng and Kelly scored 9 of the Heels’ 16 fourth quarter points.
Elon went cold in the second half and only scored 16 points in comparison to UNC’s 32.
While she might not have made up for the margin of loss, the Phoenix were without a key piece as sophomore guard Raven Preston did not play. She led the Phoenix in scoring and rebounding last year and was also the Coastal Athletic Association Rookie of the Year. Elon sophomore guard Kamryn Doty also did not play.
The loss extended Elon’s record versus ranked opponents to 0-18 all-time, and extended the losing streak to UNC to 11 straight. The last time the Phoenix won over the Heels came all the way back in the 1976 season.
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith played for UNC when she was in college. The 2023-24 college basketball season marks the 30-year anniversary of Smith hitting a game winning shot in the NCAA national championship game against Louisiana Tech.
After enduring back-to-back losses to ACC opponents, the Phoenix will look to its first round matchup with Bradley University at the Georgia State University Thanksgiving Tournament. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Nov. 22 at the GSU Convocation Center.