ELON, N.C. – A balanced attack helped the Elon University men’s basketball team to its first Colonial Athletic Association victory of the season, as the Phoenix claimed a 72-61 decision over Towson on Saturday, Jan. 7, in Alumni Gym.
Four players scored in double figures in the win and, as the Phoenix used a 10-2 run late in the second half to separate from the Tigers and secure the key league victory on a snow-filled weekend on Elon’s campus. Six different players hit a three for the Phoenix, who finished 9-of-28 from deep.
After a 29-point performance on Thursday night at William & Mary, Steven Santa Ana led the Phoenix again in the scoring column versus Towson with a game-high 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Santa Ana nailed three shots from beyond the arc after tying a school record with nine just two days prior.
Dainan Swoope finished the game with 12 points and four steals, as he and Santa Ana combined to go 11-for-11 at the free throw line in the win. As a team, Elon shot 83 percent (19-of-23) from the charity stripe. Brian Dawkins and Karolis Kundrotas each pitched in 10 points in the victory.
Defensively, the Phoenix held the Tigers to 36 percent shooting from the floor, including a 4-of-15 clip from three. One of the league’s best rebounding teams in the league, Elon held its own on the glass versus the Tigers and kept the margin within three, 40-37.
“I just thought our flow was a lot better,” Elon Head Coach Matt Matheny said. “Our motion offense was a lot better and I thought we took some good shots. We weren’t getting clean looks – great looks – but we made a little bit of an adjustment in our motion and I think our guys picked up on that, and I think that gave us better looks.”
After falling behind early in the first half, the Phoenix went on a 13-4 run behind the hot hand of Kundrotas to claim a 31-27 advantage with 3:30 to play. Kundrotas tallied a game-high nine points in the opening frame on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor.
Elon held on to a 33-29 lead at the break after going 12-of-28 (43 percent) from the floor in the first 20 minutes and cashing in eight points off Towson miscues. The maroon and gold also cashed in on free throws in the first half, going 5-of-6 at the line.
Towson reclaimed the lead with 14:22 to play in the second session after Deshaun Morman split a pair of free throws to give the Tigers a 41-40 edge. But Dmitri Thompson helped Elon grab a four-point lead minutes later after connecting from deep in front of the Phoenix bench to make it a 45-41 game with 12:14 to play.
The Tigers were forced to call a timeout with 7:08 to play in the second half after Santa Ana drilled his third three of the game to give the Phoenix a 55-47 advantage, its largest lead of the game at the time.
Tyler Seibring gave his squad a nine-point lead, 62-53, with less than three minutes to play after hitting a deep three from the top of the key. Seibring ended the game with nine points, nine rebounds and tied a career-best with five assists.
– The Phoenix picked up its first-ever regular season victory against the Tigers. Elon’s previous victory against Towson was in the 2015 CAA Tournament.
– Brian Dawkins finished in double-figures for the 15th time this season and for the eighth straight game.
– Elon improves to 6-2 this season when leading at halftime.
– Kundrotas finished with 10 points in 17 minutes. It was the fourth time this season he has scored in double-figures.
Elon returns to action on Thursday, Jan. 12, when it hosts Hofstra in Alumni Gym at 7 p.m.
Head Coach Matt Matheny’s opening statement…
“Thrilled to be able to get a victory after a very difficult, tough stretch. Didn’t start the way we wanted it to start, but I felt we prepared very well and even though it didn’t start the way we wanted it to start, we were locked in. I could just tell that our players were focused and we had a good run. We had some guys step up and play some very important minutes in our run, Karolis being one that stands out. I liked the way we finished after a tough start in the first half and I thought we really locked into the game plan in the second half, and got just enough rebounds to hold them off.”