ELON, N.C. – Three was the magic number all night in Alumni Gym as fans were treated to a barrage of buckets from long range, but it was the Samford Bulldogs that used 16 three-pointers to sink the host Elon Phoenix, 86-80, in Southern Conference men’s basketball action on Thursday night. Despite shooting 50 percent from the floor and nailing 11 triples, Elon couldn’t contain the sharp-shooting Bulldogs who connected on 53 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.
The box score looked eerily similar from top to bottom with both teams making 29 field goals, posting 33 rebounds, assisting on 18 buckets, tallying nine turnovers and having four players hit double figures. The slight difference — five more makes from downtown — proved the difference in the win for the Bulldogs.
“We really played hard tonight, but made too many defensive mistakes to expect to win. And when we made a mistake, they made us pay,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “It felt like every time we made a mistake, they hit a three. I thought we made big shots tonight, but they made a few more than we did.
“I am disappointed we lost, but encouraged by the way we competed. Now we have to take that and build on it.”
Elon senior Drew Spradlin came off the bench for 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds and dishing four assists. Jack Isenbarger hit five triples for 15 points while Lucas Troutman dumped in 6-of-7 field goals for 12 points. Ryley Beaumont contributed 10 points and Brett Ervin led the Phoenix with eight boards.
Samford’s bigs made a living beyond the arc as forward Tyler Hood scored 25 points on 4-of-7 from long range and center Drew Windler was good on 6-of-9 three-pointers for 21 points. Guards Raijon Kelly netted 19 and Will Cook contributed 13 in the victory.
The Phoenix played from behind for much of the tight game, closing the gap over and over but never amassing the needed run to put the Bulldogs on their heels. After Samford ended the first half on a 16-7 run to take an eight-point edge to the locker room, Elon answered out of the break. The home team scored 11 of the first 14 points with Beaumont adding an exclamation point to the run after turning a Bulldog miscue into a slam on the other end to give the Phoenix a 50-48 lead at the 14:06 mark.
Unfortunately, Samford took advantage of offensive rebounds on the next few possessions and scored seven unanswered to regain the lead, 55-50. Elon would claw within two on multiple occasions, but the Bulldogs always had a response, usually from about 21 feet from the rim.
Clinging to a 66-64 lead at the 5:38 mark, Samford scored eight straight using triples from Windler and Kelly to pull away. The Bulldogs forced the Phoenix to play long stretches of defense as the game clock wound down, limiting Elon’s chances at a comeback.
Elon shot an impressive 66.7 percent from the field and held a 19-11 advantage on the glass in the second half. The Phoenix held the visitors to only 12 second-half buckets, but nine dropped from downtown.
Samford took advantage of its offensive boards in the contest, netting 21 second-chance points to 16 for the Phoenix.
Elon remains at home for a date with the Chattanooga Mocs on Saturday, January 21 at 7 p.m.