STATESBORO, Ga. – A stingy defensive effort helped the Elon University men’s basketball team to victory on opening night in the Southern Conference, as the Phoenix came up with a key 55-50 win over the Georgia Southern Eagles on Wednesday night, Nov. 28, inside Hanner Fieldhouse.
Elon (5-2, 1-0 SoCon) held Georgia Southern (2-4, 0-1 SoCon) to 30 percent shooting in the second half, not allowing the Eagles a field goal make for a 10-minute stretch in the during the final 20 minutes to help secure the win.
Elon’s 5-2 start is the best over the first seven games since the 1996-97 season, while the team’s win in a conference opener on the road is its first since 2006.
“It’s not always pretty when you get into conference play, but we battled for all 40 minutes and came up with a good win on the road against one of the better teams in our league,” said Phoenix head coach Matt Matheny. “I was very pleased with our overall defensive team effort tonight, in particular in the second half. We really buckled down and held [Georgia Southern] below 40 percent, which is always our goal going into every game.”
After being named the SoCon Player of the Week yesterday, Lucas Troutman followed it up with another impressive performance. The forward tied for a game-high 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field to go along with five boards, four steals and two blocks.
Jack Isenbarger was the only other Phoenix player in double figures, scoring 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including a 2-of-7 clip from beyond the arc.
Elon won the battle on the boards, 35-29, which included 11 on the offensive end.
The Phoenix took its largest lead of the first half with less than six minutes remaining when Sebastian Koch pump-faked a Georgia Southern defender under the basket for an easy layup to make it a 26-17 game, forcing an Eagles timeout with 5:05 to play.
Elon carried a six-point lead into the locker room at intermission, 32-26, after turning eight Georgia Southern turnovers into 12 points. The Eagles did not cash in a single point on six turnovers by the Phoenix in the opening stanza.
Troutman sunk a pair of free throws to give Elon its largest lead of the game, 37-26, with 17:20 remaining in the second half and followed it up five minutes later with a monstrous dunk that kept the Phoenix ahead by 10 points.
Koch put Elon ahead 13 points with less than nine minutes remaining after burying a three in the corner opposite of the Phoenix bench to make it a 47-34 game.
Elon went ahead by as many as 15 points in the second half, but the Eagles pulled within eight, 53-45, with 2:53 remaining on Eric Ferguson’s first three of the season, forcing a Phoenix timeout.
After a C.J. Reed three-pointer pulled GSU within five points with 2:14 left, the Eagles made it a two-point game after Ferguson split a pair free throws with 40.2 seconds left, making it a 53-50 game. Ferguson finished the game with 10 points and 11 boards.
But Isenbarger’s pair of free throws with 7.1 seconds remaining put the game out of reach for the Eagles, securing the victory for Elon.
Elon returns home on Saturday, Dec. 1, for a key league match-up with College of Charleston. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside Alumni Gym.