ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Second-half shooting struggles that included a lengthy drought from the field proved to be the difference maker on Sunday night as the Elon men’s basketball team suffered an 83-67 setback to the top-seeded Davidson Wildcats in the semifinals of the 2012 Southern Conference Championship.
Elon finishes the season with a 15-16 record, while Davidson improves to 24-7 and advances to the conference title game tomorrow versus Western Carolina.
After trailing by six at the half, Elon scored the first five points of the final period to trim the deficit to one, 39-38, at the 18:09 mark. Davidson missed its first six buckets during the quick Phoenix run.
But then the Elon shooting woes began. The Phoenix did not managed a field goal for 11 minutes and the ‘Cats took advantage with a 25-6 run that pretty much put the game out of reach. The South Division champions pushed out to their largest lead of the game, 64-44, when De’Mon Brooks finished an offensive rebound with 8:34 on the clock. The league player of the year (coaches) finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting in just 19 minutes. Elon would never get closer than 16 for the remainder of the contest.
Jack Isenbarger led the maroon and gold offensively for the third straight game with 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting and an 8-of-9 performance from the line. Forward Lucas Troutman added 18 points on 8-of-14 and Ryley Beaumont pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Davidson’s Jake Cohen, the media’s SoCon Player of the Year, tallied 24 points to lead all scorers. Chris Czerapowicz chipped in 12 points.
“Our players came in tonight with a vivid memory of our game at Davidson two weeks ago where they dominated loose balls and rebounds,” commented Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “After that film session, we made it a point to make that our focus in the coming games. And we did that in the last two games and went tooth and nail with a top team tonight, particularly for about 25 minutes.
“We fought, cut it to one, and then they knocked us on heels a bit and the game got away from us. We are getting better. This program is growing and we are learning. We had a great contingency here in Asheville and they cheered us on until the final buzzer.”
Davidson shot 46.8 percent from the field, including a blistering 51.9 percent in the second half. While the Phoenix finished with 10 second-half field goals, Elon had only two through nearly 13 minutes. Elon finished the night shooting 40.4 percent, hitting only 3-of-12 (25 percent) from long range.
Both teams hit 18 free throws in a foul-plagued game that featured 42 fouls and saw the Phoenix in the bonus by the 12:17 mark of the final stanza.
Elon did a much better job on the glass in this meeting as Davidson held just a 37-33 advantage. The Wildcats finished with 12 offensive boards after grabbing six in the first eight minutes of action.
It was a tight first half, similar to the regular-season contest on February 23. After Sebastian Koch nailed a deep three to pull the Phoenix within three, 18-15, Brooks and Czerapowicz combined for 10 of the next 12 Wildcat points. Davidson used the 12-4 run to go up 30-22 at 6:59.
An Isenbarger triple sparked a quick Elon spurt and the Phoenix cut the lead to three, 32-29. The teams traded buckets before Czerapowicz knocked down a little fade-away jumper as the clock wound down to send Davidson into the locker room leading, 39-33.
The night marked the final game for lone senior Drew Spradlin. The sharp shooter ended his career 17th on Elon’s all-time scoring list with 1,259 career points. He was fourth all-time with 179 career three-pointers.