ELON, N.C. – It came down to the wire for the second straight season, but the Elon University men’s basketball team could not get over the hump late against the College of Charleston Cougars this time, as the Phoenix fell, 56-54, on Saturday night, Dec. 1, in Alumni Gym.
Trailing by two points with 5.4 seconds left, Elon (5-3, 1-1 Southern Conference) managed to get off a 40-footer from Austin Hamilton as time expired off the inbound underneath its basket. But unlike his game-winner against Navy last season, Hamilton’s potential walk-off shot ricocheted off the rim as the buzzer sounded, allowing College of Charleston (5-2, 1-0 Southern Conference) to escape with the win.
“Tonight was a battle and I love the way our guys fought to hang in there,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “We were ready and our guys competed from the start, but we didn’t manage the end of the half well. Charleston really defended us well in the first half and we didn’t get many open or clean looks and they made it not only difficult for Lucas [Troutman] but everybody. But we never gave up and I’m encouraged by the way we fought and got back in it.”
The Phoenix held the Cougars to just one field goal make in the final 6:38 of the game, a Adjehi Baru dunk with 1:30 left that put College of Charleston ahead, 54-52.
After Andrew Lawrence split a pair of free throws with 54 seconds remaining, Lucas Troutman pulled the Phoenix within one after getting inside the Cougars defense for a layup to make it a 55-54 game.
But after Anthony Stitt split a pair of free throws with 20 seconds remaining, the Phoenix just missed tying the game after Ryley Beaumont’s layup after a strong baseline drive to the basket missed. Beaumont led the Phoenix with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting to go along with a team-best seven boards.
Troutman was the only other Phoenix player in double digits, as the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Week ended the night with 12 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field.
After sitting most of the first half due to foul trouble, Jack Isenbarger finished the night with nine points after sinking three shots from three-point land.
Elon forced the Cougars into 19 turnovers in the setback that led to 25 points. But CofC won the battle on the boards, 35-31, and limited Elon to just 35 percent shooting from the field. College of Charleston shot 47 percent from the field on the night on 21-of-45 field goal attempts.
Tony Sabato gave the Phoenix a four-point lead with 6:35 remaining in the first period after converting an old-fashioned three-point play on a left-handed hook in the paint to make it a 22-18 game.
But the Cougars went on an 11-2 run to close the half and take a five-point lead at intermission, 29-24. The Phoenix went cold in the opening half, shooting just 27 percent from the field on 8-of-30 field goal attempts.
The Phoenix answered quickly after falling behind by nine points in the second half, as back-to-back Isenbarger three-pointers made it a 38-35 game and put the maroon and gold faithful in Alumni Gym on its feet.
But Willis Hall put the Cougars ahead by nine points again with 6:30 remaining and forced a Phoenix timeout after sinking a jumper in the paint to make it a 52-43 game. Hall finished with a game-high 19 points.
The Phoenix went on a 9-0 run from that point forward and tied the game on a Tanner Samson layup following a missed three by Hamilton, but could pull no closer.
Tonight was the first meeting between the two squads since the double-overtime thriller last season in Alumni Gym in which Elon won, 99-98.
Elon jumps back into non-conference play on Tuesday, Dec. 4, when it hosts Dartmouth at 7 p.m. All attendees will receive free admission to Tuesday’s game with a donated coat to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Coat Drive.