NEW YORK – It was déjà vu in the Big Apple for the second time in three years tonight, Dec. 22, inside Levien Gymnasium, as Jack Isenbarger channeled his inner Chris Long and hit the game-winning shot to lift the Elon men’s basketball team to a 70-69 win over the Columbia Lions.
Trailing by two with 17 seconds left and the clock winding down, Isenbarger connected on a deep three from the right wing with 2.3 seconds remaining and a Columbia defender in his face to give the Phoenix a 70-69 lead.
Columbia’s Brian Barbour had a chance for the game-winner in the final moments, but his baseline jumper rimmed out as the buzzer sounded and the Phoenix managed to escape Columbia with yet another buzzer-beating win. It was two seasons ago that former Phoenix point guard Chris Long provided the late-game heroics for the Phoenix in a 70-69 win over the Lions.
“I’m so proud of the way our guys fought tonight and I wouldn’t have been in a position to hit the shot without my teammates,” Isenbarger said. “We were looking to give Austin [Hamilton] a shot at driving to the lane, but I managed to slip out from the corner and he found me and somehow the shot went in.”
Isenbarger finished the night with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from long distance.
Lucas Troutman put the Phoenix on his back for most of the night, as the junior from Belton, S.C., ended the night with a season-high 23 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field. Troutman has scored in double figures in 11 straight games.
Ryley Beaumont was just short of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards, while also recording a game- and career-high three blocks.
“We didn’t get a good look in the final seconds, but Jack knocked it down and it’s a great team victory,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “Everybody that played tonight scored and contributed in a big way. I’m pleased with the way we broke out of our shooting slump and shot the ball from the floor tonight as well. It was a great basketball game to be a part of and I’m so proud of the way our guys fought and grinded out a win.”
Elon shot 50.8 percent from the field in the win, its best performance in a game since hitting for 52.5 percent against Bridgewater on Nov. 13.
Troutman put a strong Elon contingency in the stands on its feet with less than 12 minutes remaining after Isenbarger found the junior forward on a fast-break for a thunderous dunk to pull the Phoenix back within one, 16-15, forcing a Columbia timeout with 11:13 left.
Tied at 28-all with 4:01 to play, the maroon and gold closed the half on a 10-2 run to claim a 38-30 lead at the break. Troutman connected on a baseline jumper in the waning moments to give Elon momentum heading into the locker room, scoring a game-high 14 points in the first period.
Elon shot 52 percent (16-of-31) from the field in the opening frame, including a 4-of-9 clip from beyond the arc. The Phoenix outrebounded the Lions, 17-16, in the first half. The Elon bench was key in the opening half, as Ryan Winters and Kevin Blake both scored four points, while Tanner Samson tallied three for the Phoenix.
Troutman pushed Elon’s lead out to 11 points with less than 16 minutes to play in the second half after gliding through the lane for a jumper in the paint to make it a 47-36 game.
But Columbia’s Steve Frankoski led the charge for the Lions to pull his team back to take a 53-51 lead with 10:15 to play after connecting on his second of five three-pointers in the final frame. The Lions went on a 17-4 run over a five-minute stretch to reclaim the lead.
Frankoski and Barbour had a chance to potentially ice the game down the stretch for the Lions, but each missed the front end of their 1-and-1 free throw attempts to keep the lead to two points, 69-67, with 17 seconds left. Frankoski led the Lions with 20 points, while Barbour finished with 12 assists.
Elon plays its final game of the 2012 calendar year on Dec. 31 at Alumni Gym when the Phoenix hosts Manchester at 2 p.m.