ELON, N.C. – The Elon University men’s basketball team sustained a late second-half punch from Western Carolina to rally in overtime for an 80-73 win on Saturday night, Feb. 16, inside a packed Alumni Gym.
Elon (18-8, 11-3 Southern Conference) extends its lead in the Southern Conference North Division with the win, while Western Carolina falls to 11-16 (8-7 Southern Conference) with the setback.
“I thought we played well for stretches of the game,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “It was disappointing to see our twelve-point lead get away from us, but it put us in another close game and I think our players have performed well in close games. We made some gutsy plays down the stretch and defended Western well in overtime.”
The Catamounts rallied from 12 points down to take a three-point lead with 2:11 remaining in regulation after Tom Tankelewicz connected on his seventh triple of the game to give WCU a 64-61 edge. The Catamounts held Elon without a field goal make for a seven-minute stretch late in the second period to mount the comeback.
But Elon responded down the stretch and tied it at 64-all with 24.6 seconds left after a pair of Jack Isenbarger free throws.
Western’s Trey Sumler had a chance to win it for Western at the end of regulation, but Tanner Samson had a good contest on his jumper inside the paint near the free-throw line to force overtime.
Samson hit the proverbial dagger for the Phoenix with 1:24 to play in overtime, as his trey near the top of the key put the Phoenix ahead, 73-69. Elon outscored Western Carolina, 16-9, in the extra session – the team’s third OT game of the year.
Ryley Beaumont had a monster game, going for 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the win. Beaumont knocked down 6-of-8 from the field and 6-of-11 from the free throw line.
Lucas Troutman battled through an ankle injury to become Elon’s all-time blocks leader in the win after ending the night with four. Troutman now has 145 blocked shots in his career. The Belton, S.C., finished the night with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in 28 minutes.
Sebastian Koch had a stellar game for the Phoenix as well, finishing with 16 points. Koch knocked down 10-of-12 from the free throw line in the win, two nights after his clutch performance versus Appalachian State where he sunk key free throws for Elon in crunch time.
Troutman split a pair of free throws with 12.4 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Phoenix ahead by one, 29-28, at intermission. The maroon and gold shot 56 percent in the opening frame, knocking down 10-of-18 from the field.
After Elon led by as many as 12 in the second half, the Catamounts pulled within three with 5:14 to play after a Tawaski King layup off a WCU missed free throw made it a 56-53 game.
Sumler helped Western Carolina complete the comeback and give his squad its first lead since the 13:24 mark of the first half when his left-handed jumper with 3:08 to play put Elon down, 61-60.
In overtime, Josh Mendenhall had a chance to give the Catamounts a one-point lead with 2:21 to play, but missed from the free throw line on a 1-and-1 attempt to keep the game tied at 69-all.
It was all Elon from there, as the Phoenix went on an 11-4 run from that point forward to seal the win.
Tankelewicz led all scorers with 23 points, while Sumler finished with 19 for the Catamounts.
Elon’s 18 wins are the most since the 1989-90 season when the team won 19 games. The Phoenix’s 11 league wins are the most since joining the SoCon and most since the 1987-88 squad registered 12 wins in league play as a member of the Carolinas Conference.
Tonight’s crowd of 1,742 marks the largest this season in Alumni Gym and most since Elon’s record-breaking crowd against UNCG last season on Feb. 25.
The Phoenix hits the road for its next two games, beginning with a trip to Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday, Feb. 21, to face Samford. Two days later, Elon heads to Chattanooga, Tenn., to take on UTC on ESPN3.