ELON, N.C. – Elon University men’s basketball fought back from as much as a 10-point deficit and shot a blistering shooting 69.2 percent from the floor in the second half to come back and defeat Towson 75-72 in CAA action on Tuesday night, Jan. 2, inside Alumni Gym.
The Phoenix (10-5, 2-0 CAA) closed out the game making four of its last five field goals over the final four minutes offensively. Dmitri Thompson scored the final four points for Elon in the final 27 seconds and the Phoenix forced Towson (10-5, 0-2 CAA) to miss two key shots in the final minute to earn the win.
Elon had four players finish in double figures, led by Steven Santa Ana’s team-high 17 points. Tyler Seibring added 16 points and a team-best six rebounds. Thompson chipped in 15 points and five rebounds, while Dainan Swoope added 12 points and a team-high six assists.
Towson was led by Zane Martin, who finished with a game-high 27 points on the night. Eddie Keith III also scored in double figures, adding 10 points. Mike Morsell grabbed a team-best seven rebounds to add to his seven points. Deshaun Morman and Justin Goreham contributed to Towson’s scoring effort with nine points each.
“We are very happy with the victory,” said head coach Matt Matheny. “We did not shoot the ball very well in the first half and Towson can be credited for the reason why. They are a good defensive team and their stats bear that out. For us to defend and cut their lead to four at halftime was a thing and I think our guys got some momentum from that and it carried over into the second half. We were not as good defensively, they were better offensively in the second half, but we gutted out a hard-fought CAA victory.”
The Tigers jumped out to a 18-9 lead in the first 11:44 of the contest after McNeil hit a jumper. Elon responded with a 9-4 run over the next 5:13 to cut Towson’s lead to four, 22-18, capped off by Santa Ana’s bucket.
Morsell and Martin led a 9-3 run in response to help the Tigers take its largest lead of the half, 31-21, with 4:07 on the clock following a Martin free throw. Morsell scored five and Martin added four points during the run.
Despite its first half shooting struggles, Elon bounced back with a 6-0 run to end the first stanza and cut Towson’s halftime lead to 31-27. The Tigers limited the Phoenix to just 31 percent from the floor in the first half and 3-of-18 shooting from three.
Elon continued its run into the second half and took its first lead since the first minute of the game 36-35, following a free throw from Santa Ana at the 16:42 mark. The teams would trade the lead five times over the next four minutes, and Towson came out of time frame with a 45-44 lead with 13:59 remaining. Santa Ana’s three and Sheldon Eberhardt’s layup with 12:33 on the clock gave the Phoenix its largest lead of the game, 49-45, and the Tigers called a timeout.
Towson came rolling out of the timeout answering with a 12-2 run over the next 3:31 to take a 57-51 lead, forcing the Phoenix to call for time. Both teams swapped baskets for the next two minutes kept Towson’s lead at six-points and the Tigers had a 62-56 lead with 7:13 on the clock.
The Phoenix fought back outscoring the Tigers 12-6 over the next 3:39 to tie the game 68-68 with 3:20 remaining. To start the final two minutes of the game, Martin made a layup, Santa Ana answered with a three-pointer, and Keith II made another Towson layup to give the Tigers the 72-71 lead with 56 seconds to go.
Thompson made a cut to the basket and Brian Dawkins, who was backing his defender in the post, found him for the layup to give the Phoenix a 73-72 lead with 27 seconds remaining. Towson missed a shot, Thompson came up with a big rebound, and the senior made his two free throws in a one-and-one opportunity to give Elon a 75-72 cushion.
The Tigers got one last look to tie the game, but Brian Starr’s three-pointer missed with a second to play and Elon held on for its second CAA win of the season.
– The Phoenix remains undefeated at home after the win, improving to 6-0 in its final season inside Alumni Gym. Elon is 6-0 to start its home slate for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
– This is the fourth time Elon has started 2-0 in league play since joining the Division I level in 1999-2000.
– With the win, this is the fifth time Elon has started 2-0 at home in league play in the program’s Division I era.
– The Phoenix improves to 2-0 in its first two CAA games since joining the league in 2014-15.
– Elon shot just 31.3 percent from the field and 3-of-18 from three in the first half, but responded shooting 69.2 percent from the field in the second half, including 57.2 percent from three.
– Santa Ana scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, going 5-of-8 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range.
– Dmitri Thompson had 11 of his 15 points in the second half and scored Elon’s final four points in the contest.
The Phoenix heads to the northeast to play two CAA games, starting on Friday, Jan. 5, at Northeastern. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. as will be aired on CBS College Sports Live.