ELON, N.C. – The Elon University men’s basketball team spoiled UNCW’s hopes of a Colonial Athletic Association regular season title with a convincing 74-55 victory on Saturday night, Feb. 28, in front of a record crowd at Alumni Gym for Senior Night.
Elon (14-17, 6-12 CAA) led from start to finish and played one of its most complete games of the season against UNCW (17-12, 12-6 CAA), who could have clinched the CAA regular season title with a victory.
The Phoenix held the Seahawks without a three-point make (0-of-14) and forced 16 turnovers while limiting UNCW to one assist. UNCW shot 34 percent from the floor – a season low by a league foe this season. Tonight is the first time Elon has held an opponent without a three-point field goal since Nov. 10, 2013, at Marist.
“We always talk about being at our best going into March and I feel like we’re playing our best basketball of the season right now,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “We’re playing better defensively right now. I thought we were aggressive from the start and we didn’t give [UNCW] many good looks. It’s a quick turnaround, Thursday to Saturday, and I thought our guys were really locked in tonight.”
Tanner Samson led four Phoenix players in double figures with 19 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the floor. Samson made all eight of his free throw attempts in the win, as Elon shot 31-of-39 at the line.
Austin Hamilton pitched in 14 points and five boards, while Elijah Bryant and Christian Hairston ended the evening with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Elon held its own on the glass, finishing with a 41-39 edge.
Elon kept its foot on the gas the entire opening session, taking a 37-22 lead into the locker room at intermission. The Phoenix shot 43 percent in the opening frame and capitalized on 10 turnovers by the Seahawks with 10 points.
Elon took its largest lead of the game with less than 13 minutes to play in the second session after Samson buried his fourth triple of the game to give his squad a 50-27 advantage. Samson now sits at 99 threes this season. With one more triple, he will become only the fifth player in CAA history to make 100 three-point field goals in a season.
UNCW managed to narrow the gap to 14 points, but the Phoenix kept the Seahawks at arm’s length down the stretch to secure its third straight victory.
Tonight’s attendance of 1,876 is the highest during the Matheny era. The 19-point margin of victory is the highest against a league foe since a 24-point win over Chattanooga on Jan. 24, 2013.
Winners of three straight, Elon sets its sights on the 2015 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Baltimore, where it opens play on Friday, March 6, at 6 p.m. against ninth-seeded Towson. With tonight’s win, Elon earns the No. 8 seed.