LEXINGTON, Va. – Stan Okoye led a second-half surge by Virginia Military Institute that proved to be too much for the Elon men’s basketball team to overcome on Saturday night, Nov. 24, as the Phoenix fell to the Keydets, 90-81, inside Cameron Hall.
Okoye led all players with 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field to go along with a game-high 16 rebounds.
Elon moves to 4-2 on the young season with the setback, while VMI improves to 3-3 with the win, its 27th-straight non-conference home victory.
“The margin for error is ever so slight when you go against a team like VMI that has a player like Okoye,” said Phoenix head coach Matt Matheny. “I thought we really battled and competed in the first half and overcame some adversity, but there were two or three segments in the second half that VMI went on runs and we failed to stop them with our toughness.”
Jack Isenbarger led four Phoenix players in double figures with 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including a 6-of-10 clip from beyond the arc.
Lucas Troutman finished the night with 16 points and eight boards, while Ryley Beaumont pitched in 12 points, six boards and six assists. Austin Hamilton was the fourth Elon player in double digits with 10 points.
After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half, including 8-of-12 from long distance, the Phoenix went cold in the final 20 minutes from three-point land, going just 2-of-17.
The Keydets got to the free throw line often in the second period, converting 16-of-19 from the charity stripe. In all, VMI knocked down 81 percent (25-of-31) from the free throw line in the win. The Phoenix finished the game 11-of-13 (85 percent) at the line.
Trailing by four with less than six minutes to play in the first period, the Phoenix made it a one-basket game after Tanner Samson found a wide open Troutman underneath the hoop for a dunk to make it a 34-32 game.
Elon closed the half on a 12-2 run over the final 4:06 to take a 46-43 lead at intermission.
The Phoenix shot 50 percent (16-of-32) from the field in the opening stanza, including an 8-of-12 mark from beyond the arc. Isenbarger led the Phoenix with 17 points in the first 20 minutes after connecting on five shots from long distance.
Okoye gave the Keydets a five-point lead with 11:41 remaining in the second half after hitting a jumper in the paint to make it a 66-61 game.
Trailing by nine with 7:49 to play, the Phoenix rallied to pull within four points after a Hamilton three and Samson layup made it a 74-70 game with 5:06 left. But the Keydets answered to reclaim a nine-point lead after hitting back-to-back shots to take a 79-70 advantage with 4:06 remaining in the second period.
VMI outscored Elon by 12 points, 47-35, in the second half and held on to the lead for the game’s final 15:10.
Elon wraps up a three-game road swing on Wednesday, Nov. 28, when the Phoenix opens Southern Conference play at Georgia Southern. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside Hanner Fieldhouse.