Elon Men’s Basketball Treks to Northwestern to Begin Cancun Challenge

ELON, N.C. – Before the Elon men’s basketball team hits the sandy beaches of beautiful Cancun, Mexico, next week, the Phoenix must first travel to Evanston, Ill., to face the Northwestern Wildcats as part of the Cancun Challenge. Tip is scheduled for 4 p.m. (ET) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

ELON VS. NORTHWESTERN: Saturday marks the second all-time meeting between the Phoenix and Wildcats. Northwestern won the previous meeting, 66-51, on Dec. 18, 2002, in Evanston. That game was the second game of seven straight on the road for the maroon and gold.

ELON VS. BIG TEN CONFERENCE: Including its previous game against Northwestern, Elon is 0-4 all-time against current members of the Big Ten Conference. The Phoenix has a 0-2 mark against Maryland, who was a member of the ACC in those two meetings. The Phoenix is 0-1 against Rutgers, who was a member of the Big East when the two schools met in 1999.

CANCUN CHALLENGE: This year marks the third straight season that the Elon men’s basketball program has competed in one of the nation’s many early season tournaments. Last year, Elon played in the NIT Season Tip-Off after playing in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational two years ago. Elon joins Liberty, Morgan State and North Florida as one of four “visiting teams” in this year’s Cancun Challenge. Northwestern, Miami (Ohio), Northern Iowa and Virginia Tech are the four host schools in this year’s tournament. In Mexico, Elon will compete in the Mayan Division and face Morgan State on Nov. 25 at 1:30 p.m. (ET), as the Phoenix will be the designated home team. A day later, the Phoenix takes on either Liberty or North Florida. If Elon wins, its game will begin at 4 p.m. (ET). If the Phoenix plays in the consolation game, it will tip at 1:30 p.m. (ET). Learn more about the Cancun Challenge at cancunchallenge.net.

LOOKING BACK: The Elon offense could not find a rhythm late on Nov. 16 against the Charlotte 49ers, as the Phoenix fell, 73-60, to the 49ers inside Alumni Gym. Charlotte held Elon to 3-of-13 shooting during a six-minute span in the second half that turned a three-point Phoenix deficit into a 15-point lead for the 49ers with 7:17 to play. Elon shot 32 percent from the field in the setback, while the 49ers ended the night at 50 percent. Despite being outrebounded in the loss, 45-39, the Phoenix managed to battle its way to 17 offensive boards against the 49ers.

LOOKING AHEAD: Following Saturday’s game at Northwestern, Elon will head to Cancun for the Cancun Challenge. The Phoenix opens the tournament on Nov. 24 against Morgan State. Elon will face Liberty or North Florida a day later.

HOME SLATE: Phoenix fans have only five chances to see men’s basketball action in Alumni Gym before the end of the calendar year. Following Sunday’s game against Charlotte, Elon has just three remaining home games in 2014 – Virginia University of Lynchburg (Dec. 2), Central Pennsylvania (Dec. 7) and Marist (Dec. 28).

BEYOND THE ARC: With three triples against Charlotte on Nov. 16, Tanner Samson now sits at 144 in his career (ninth in school history). Samson needs 20 triples to pass TJ Douglas for eighth in school history. Jack Isenbarger ’14 ranks first in school history in career threes made with 264. Samson entered this season third all-time in Elon history in career three-point field goal percentage at 39.4 percent, trailing only Sebastian Koch (40.3%) and Steve Page (46.4%).

ANOTHER ELITE TOURNAMENT: Elon will participate in one of the nation’s top tournaments to begin the season, as the Phoenix travels to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge this season. Elon will face Morgan State on Nov. 25 in Cancun before taking on Liberty or North Florida a day later. Elon’s games at Northwestern (Nov. 22) and Miami (Nov. 30) are also a part of the Cancun Challenge. Last season, the Phoenix competed in the NIT Season Tip-Off. In 2012-13, Elon was selected to participate in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational.

NEW LOOKS: The 2014-15 season marks one of newness for the maroon and gold. Elon begins its inaugural season in the Colonial Athletic Association this year. The Phoenix welcomes in five newcomers to the squad this year following the departure of four 1,000-point scorers in Jack Isenbarger, Lucas Troutman, Ryley Beaumont and Sebastian Koch. Elon will also don new uniforms this season.

PRESEASON PROGNOSTICATIONS: The CAA released its preseason men’s basketball poll on Oct. 21, as the league’s head coaches predicted the Phoenix to finish 10th in the league. Northeastern was picked as the preseason favorite while William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton earned nods as the preseason player of the year.

LEAGUE FIRST: Elon’s 64-58 victory over Florida Atlantic on Nov. 14 marked the first win of the 2014-15 season for the Colonial Athletic Association. Hofstra and College of Charleston also claimed wins on opening night for the CAA.

ELON ON THE BIG SCREEN: Elon will appear on television eight times this season, including four occasions in Alumni Gym. American Sports Network (ASN) will carry Elon’s home games against Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, William & Mary and Hofstra, in addition to road games at James Madison and Delaware. Elon’s game at Missouri on Dec. 11 will be broadcasted live on the SEC Network, while the Phoenix’s Dec. 15 matchup in Cameron Indoor Stadium vs. Duke will be carried on ESPNU.

A LOOK AT ELON: The Phoenix is coming off an 18-14 campaign in the Southern Conference under sixth-year head coach Matt Matheny. Elon welcomes back starters Austin Hamilton (6.2 ppg, 2.5 apg) and Tanner Samson (9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg), while returning a total of 10 non-starters. Senior guard Kevin Blake (4.7 ppg) and senior forward Ryan Winters (3.0 ppg) join Hamilton to make up this year’s senior class. The Phoenix graduated one of the most decorated classes in school history, as four 1,000-point scorers depart in Lucas Troutman, Jack Isenbarger, Sebastian Koch and Ryley Beaumont. The team welcomes five newcomers to the squad this season, including Jack Anton (Fr., F, 6-8, 230, Cincinnati, Ohio), Elijah Bryant (Fr., G, 6-4, 225, Gwinnett, Ga.), Collin Luther (Fr., F, 6-6, 210, Pittsburgh, Pa.), Dmitri Thompson (Fr., G, 6-4, 195, Orlando, Fla.) and Jack George (Fr., F, 6-10, 210, Libertyville, Ill.).

HEAD COACH MATT MATHENY: The 2014-15 season marks the sixth year at Elon for head coach Matt Matheny. Matheny enters Saturday’s game with a career record of 78-83.

ROAD TO BALTIMORE: The 2015 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship is scheduled for March 6-9 in Baltimore, Md., at Royal Farms Arena. Last year, Delaware topped William & Mary, 75-74, in the championship game to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.