ELON, N.C. – Clutch free throws in crunch time from Sebastian Koch and a gutsy defensive effort down the stretch lifted the Elon University men’s basketball team to a thrilling 61-58 comeback win over Appalachian State on Thursday night, Feb. 14, inside a raucous Alumni Gym.
At the free throw line with 4.5 seconds remaining and with Elon (17-8, 10-3 Southern Conference) trailing by two, Koch had ice in his veins and knocked down both attempts in a 1-and-1 situation to give the Phoenix a 59-58 edge.
On the ensuing inbound, ASU’s Nathan Healy threw the ball away on a deep pass just beyond midcourt to give Elon possession back with 4.5 seconds still on the clock. Jack Isenbarger extended Elon’s lead with the Mountaineers in a must-foul situation, hitting two from the stripe to put Elon ahead by three points.
Mike Neal missed a heave from half court for ASU as time expired, giving Elon, who trailed by eight points with less than five minutes to play, its ninth win in its last ten games. Elon’s 17 wins are the most since the 1989-90 season, as the Phoenix extends its lead in the SoCon North Division.
“Our players won this game tonight,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “[Our players] have been in difficult and challenging situations in the last two games, but they’ve handled the adversity very well. It would be easy to be discouraged down eight with five minutes to go, but they just battled and made the right plays.”
Ryley Beaumont had an outstanding performance for the Phoenix for the second time this season against ASU, as the Millersville, Md., native finished with 22 points and a career-high 13 boards for his third double-double of the season (fourth career). Beaumont poured in a career-high 26 points versus the Mountaineers earlier this season on Jan. 12.
Isenbarger ended the night with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 clip at the free-throw line. Koch was the third player in double figures, ending the game with 11 points, including his two clutch free throws in the final seconds.
Kevin Blake and Egheosa Edomwonyi both earned the start for the Phoenix with Lucas Troutman and Tanner Samson out and played key minutes in the win. The start was the first-career for Blake, while Edomwonyi started for the third time in his career and first since Jan. 14, 2012.
Isenbarger helped Elon tie the game at 23-all and force an ASU timeout with 3:10 to play in the first frame after a scoring on a Beaumont dish off a Mountaineers turnover near midcourt.
The maroon and gold closed the first period with momentum to carry a 31-26 lead into intermission. Isenbarger and Beaumont led all players with 12 and 8 points, respectively, in the opening frame, as the Phoenix shot 40 percent as a team.
ASU began the second session on a 9-2 run, as a three by Jamaal Trice with less than 16 minutes to play gave the Mountaineers a 35-33 advantage.
The Mountaineers took an eight-point edge with 5:41 to play after a Healy jumper put the Phoenix behind, 53-45, forcing a Matheny timeout.
Elon closed the final 4:43 of the game on a 16-5 run, going 8-for-8 from the free throw line during that stretch. The Phoenix ended the night 12-of-15 (80 percent) from the charity stripe.
Elon committed just 10 turnovers in the win, marking the 11th time this season the team has recorded 10 or less miscues in a game.
The Phoenix remains at home for a Saturday night contest with Western Carolina inside Alumni Gym. Tip is set for 7 p.m.