CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Elon University men’s basketball team dropped its Southern Conference opener on Saturday, Jan. 4, with a 74-62 setback versus the Western Carolina Catamounts inside the Ramsey Center.
The Phoenix could not sustain a second-half punch by the Catamounts after overcoming a double-digit deficit to claim a one-point lead, as Western surged with a 9-0 run late to go up by 17 points.
Western forced Elon into a season-high 23 turnovers in the loss and held the Phoenix to a 5-of-14 performance from long distance.
Elon falls to 7-8 (0-1 SoCon) with the setback, while Western improves to 9-8 (2-0 SoCon) and remains undefeated at home with the win.
“[Western Carolina] played better at their system than we did at our system and they deserved to win the game today,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “They did a very good job of crowding us in the paint and their pressure caused us a lot of problems. It broke our rhythm and forced us into a lot of turnovers, which is very uncharacteristic for us.”
Austin Hamilton finished one point shy of his career high mark, scoring 19 points in the setback. Hamilton was one of three Phoenix players in double figures, as Sebastian Koch and Lucas Troutman finished with 16 and 15, respectively.
The Catamounts took an early 10-point lead in the first half following a James Sinclair jumper with 13:47 to play. WCU forced an Elon timeout 47 seconds later after a Kenneth Hall layup off an offensive rebound that made it a 15-3 game.
Elon trailed by as many as 12 in the opening frame, but battled all the way back to tie the game with 1:22 left after Hamilton ripped WCU’s Trey Sumler at midcourt and took it in for a layup to make it a 30-30 game.
Elon closed the final 5:53 on a 15-4 run to cut the Catamounts lead to two points, 32-30, at the break.
The Phoenix knocked down 11-of-18 from the free throw line in the first half and held the Catamounts to 39 percent (12-of-31) shooting to get themselves back in the game.
Hamilton gave Elon its first lead of the game with 16:03 to play in the second period after slashing to the basket for a layup to give the Phoenix a 39-38 edge.
Tom Tankelwicz forced Elon to call a timeout with 8:23 remaining in the second period after connecting on his third triple of the half to give the Catamounts a 58-49 advantage.
Western took its largest lead of the game with 5:46 to play and forced another Phoenix timeout after going on a 9-0 run to take a 68-51 advantage.
The Catamounts held on from that point forward, as Elon could pull no closer than 10 points down the stretch.
Elon returns home on Monday, Jan. 6, to battle Appalachian State. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside Alumni Gym.