ELON, N.C. – Behind a career night from sharpshooter Jack Isenbarger, the Elon Phoenix knocked off The Citadel Bulldogs, 71-66, in front of a raucous Alumni Gym crowd in Saturday night Southern Conference men’s basketball action. Isenbarger nailed 11-of-16 field goals for 34 points, knocking down five buckets from beyond the arc.
With the victory, the Phoenix moved into first place in the North Division, holding a half game lead over UNCG. Elon (12-10, 7-4) has won four of its last five games and matched its league win total from all of last season.
“This was a great team win,” said Isenbarger. “Anytime you can win a home conference game, it is an excellent win.”
The sophomore guard is the first Elon player to reach 30 points since Chris Long ’10 dumped in 30 points on his Senior Night against UNCG on February 19 last year. Isenbarger is averaging 23.2 ppg over the last six contests.
“Jack is playing really well,” Elon head coach Matt Matheny said. “He is constantly on the hunt offensively. He has what great scorers have, which is amnesia. If he misses a shot, it is immediately forgotten. Jack is playing at a really high level right now.”
Elon trailed by one at the break, 32-31, but two early triples by Isenbarger helped give the Phoenix a second-half lead it would never relinquish. As is typical of Bulldog teams, The Citadel (4-19, 1-11) fought every step of the way, never allowing Elon’s lead to eclipse double figures.
Trailing 63-55 with two minutes on the clock, The Citadel scored six points in less than 60 seconds to make it a two-point game, but the Phoenix made good on six straight chances from the charity stripe to secure the victory.
Elon sophomore forward Lucas Troutman followed up a 26-point outing on Thursday night with 14 points and eight rebounds. Elon got 68 of its 71 points from its starting lineup.
The Citadel was led by Lawrence Miller’s 15 on five makes from beyond the arc. League-leading scorer Mike Groselle added 14 points on 7-of-13 from the floor.
The Bulldogs got off to an aggressive start, knocking down 4-of-5 attempts to open the game and running out to a 20-11 lead at the 12:03 mark. With the visitors’ lead still at nine a couple minutes later, Elon made the Bulldogs pay for an offensive rebound when Isenbarger connected from long range to jump-start a 9-0 Phoenix stretch.
The guard found a friendly rim on the next trip down the floor, Isenbarger’s three ball pinging off every part of the iron before dropping through the net. Spradlin wrapped up the run with a trey and the Phoenix knotted the game at 22 with 7:31 to go before the break.
The score was tied three more times before an old-fashioned three-point play by none other than Isenbarger gave the Phoenix its first lead, 29-28, just before the final media timeout of the half. After the teams traded buckets, The Citadel’s Ashton Moore dumped in a layup before the end of the half to put the Bulldogs back on top.
The game was tied once in the early minutes of the second half, but a Ryley Beaumont jumper at 16:52 followed by an Isenbarger long ball made it 39-34 in favor of the Phoenix. A 19-8 Elon run spanned the first nine minutes of the half and grew the home team’s spread to nine, 49-40.
The Citadel would get as close as four several times over the next six minutes, but the Elon offense seemingly always had an answer. The Phoenix shot 54.5 percent over the final 20 minutes, while holding The Citadel to a 39.4 percent clip.
Elon finished with a slight 34-33 edge on the glass, just the fifth time this year the Phoenix has won the board battle.
Elon closes out its three-game home stretch when league rival Appalachian State visits Alumni Gym on Monday, February 6 at 7 p.m. The game has been designated Fan Appreciation Night where Elon Athletics will thank its many fans for their support by giving out prizes throughout the entire game.