Second Half Surge Falls Short, as Elon Men’s Basketball Drops Season Opener at Butler

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A second-half surge by the Elon University men’s basketball team fell short on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 10, at Hinkle Fieldhouse, as the Phoenix dropped a 74-59 decision to the Butler Bulldogs in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational Opening Games.

“We started the second half like we wanted to start the game today,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “So much of the first half was spent trying to be competitive and tough as opposed to being competitive and tough. I’m proud of the way we battled today and the numbers in the second half show what we want to sustain for all 40 minutes in every game.”

After trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half, Elon (0-1) cut the deficit down to four points with 12:57 remaining in the second period after a Jack Isenbarger jumper made it a 47-43 game and forced Butler (1-0) head coach Brad Stevens to call a timeout.

But the Bulldogs answered quickly, knocking down back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to take a 10-point advantage force a Phoenix timeout. Butler managed to keep the Phoenix at arm’s length from that point forward, holding on to a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

Austin Hamilton and Ryley Beaumont both finished the game with a team-best 13 points in the setback, while Sebastian Koch recorded nine points for the Phoenix.

Butler’s Rotnei Clarke led all players with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three, as the Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the field as a team.

Elon outscored the Bulldogs 33-31 in the second half, as the maroon and gold shot 48 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes. Overall, the Phoenix knocked down 21-of-53 field goals in the game, good for a 40-percent mark.

Clarke pushed the Bulldogs out to an early lead in the first period after scoring his squad’s first five baskets to put Elon behind, 12-3.

Hamilton brought the Phoenix back within 10 points with 8:04 remaining in the first after burying back-to-back threes to make it a 29-19 game.

Elon trailed by 17 at intermission, 43-26, as the Bulldogs shot at a 62-percent clip in the opening frame (16-of-26). The Phoenix connected on 8-of-26 field goal attempts (31 percent) in the opening stanza, including a 4-of-12 mark from long distance.

Elon began the second half on a 14-4 run over the first seven minutes, as seven different players scored during the surge that pulled the team within four points. Tanner Samson began the run with a three-ball just 22 seconds into the half to give the team momentum. Samson, who earned the start in his first collegiate contest, scored eight points in 33 minutes.

Elon won the turnover battle versus Butler, 14-9, as Elon turned Butler’s miscues into 11 points in the game.

The Phoenix takes the hardwood in Alumni Gym for the first time this season on Tuesday night, Nov. 13, when it welcomes Bridgewater for its home opener. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Maui Invitational resumes next weekend, Nov. 17-18, when Colgate, Coppin State and Florida Atlantic head to Elon for the Regional Games.