CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A second-half surge from Chattanooga proved to be the deciding factor for the Elon University men’s basketball team in a 72-68 setback on Saturday night, Feb. 23, at McKenzie Arena.
Elon (19-9, 12-4 Southern Conference) saw its six-point lead in the second half turn into a six-point deficit after UTC (12-17, 7-9 Southern Conference) went on a 14-2 run midway through the period to take a 64-58 lead with 7:07 to play.
The Phoenix managed to cut the deficit down to two, 70-68, with 14.7 seconds remaining following a pair of Jack Isenbarger free throws, but that was as close as Elon would come down the stretch.
The loss snaps a four-game winning streak for the Phoenix, who played without leading scorer Lucas Troutman.
“Winning on the road is difficult and we just weren’t quite good enough tonight,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “We did not defend well enough to win the game and we allowed [Chattanooga] to go to the free throw line too many times. We battled foul trouble in the first half, but I thought we still played well enough offensively.”
The Mocs knocked down 20-of-29 (69 percent) from the free throw line, as rookie Gee McGhee went 13-of-19 at the stripe to lead all scorers with 24 points.
Ryley Beaumont finished the night with a team-high 20 points to go along with seven boards and three assists.
Isenbarger ended the game with 12 points, while Sebastian Koch scored 13 for the Phoenix.
Elon shot 43 percent from the field, hitting 12-of-27 from three-point land.
The Phoenix totaled just eight turnovers in the setback, one shy of tying its season low, while forcing UTC into a total of 11 miscues.
Chattanooga took its first lead since the early stages of the first half with 3:15 remaining in the opening frame after a pair of McGhee free throws put Elon behind, 34-32.
The Mocs carried a one-point edge, 38-37, into the locker room at intermission, despite the maroon and gold knocking down 8-of-12 from three-point land in the first session. Both squads shot well from the field in the first 20 minutes, as the Phoenix hit for 52 percent, while the Mocs knocked down 54 percent in the first period.
Koch pushed Elon’s lead out to six points with 12:05 to play in the second period after pulling up for three on the wing to give the Phoenix a 56-50 edge. But the Mocs tied it minutes later after a Casey Jones jumper knotted it at 56-all with 10:51 remaining.
The Mocs forced a Phoenix timeout and completed a 9-0 with 9:35 to play after an Eric Robertson triple from the corner put Elon behind, 59-56.
Elon pulled as close as two points in the final minute of the game on Isenbarger’s two free throws, but the Mocs continued to chip away at the free throw line to secure the win, its third straight over Elon inside McKenzie Arena.
The Phoenix returns home for a key league tilt on Wednesday night, Feb. 27, against South Division leader Davidson. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside Alumni Gym.