PHILADELPHIA – The Elon University men’s basketball team used a second half surge, shooting 75 percent from the field, and held on for an 81-76 victory over the Drexel Dragons on Thursday, Feb. 18, inside the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Elon (15-13, 6-9 CAA) bounced back once again, trailing by as much as 10-points in the game and six in the second half. To end the first half, the Phoenix used an 11-4 run, capped off by a Steven Santa Ana three-pointer before the buzzer, to cut into Drexel’s (3-23, 1-14 CAA) lead 35-32 at the break after trailing by 10 at the 5:03 mark.
Tanner Samson, Brian Dawkins, and Tyler Seibring scored 36 of Elon’s 49 second-half points, and the Phoenix put on a shooting clinic, finishing 75 percent (18-of-24) from the field in the second stanza. Elon outrebounded the Dragons 30-27 in the game.
“We’re very happy to get a victory,” said head coach Matt Matheny. “We’ve had three very close losses coming into tonight’s game. Our team felt pressure to perform well tonight and to Drexel’s credit I thought they started really well and made shots. But I thought our run at the end of the first half was key for us and that three at the buzzer to cut it to three gave us a lot of momentum. I thought we started the second half pretty well, particularly offensively, and then it was a close game. Tanner Samson hit some big threes and then we held on. Good victory for us.”
Five Phoenix players finished in double-figures, led by Samson’s game-high 19 points. Dawkins tacked on 14 points, Seibring added 12, Dmitri Thompson scored 11 and Santa Ana chipped in 10 points. Thompson grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Terrell Allen scored a team-high 18 points for Drexel and Kazembe Abif grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Dragons.
It was a tight first half between both sides that only saw four lead changes. Santa Ana’s layup at the 14:22 mark gave Elon it’s first lead 12-11 and Dainan Swoope’s three-pointer put the Phoenix back out in front 15-14 with 13:03 left in the half.
The Dragons retook the lead and held a 20-17 cushion with 9:51 on the clock after a Dmitri Thompson layup. Drexel then mounted an 11-4 run to take its largest lead of the game 31-21 at the 5:03 mark.
The Phoenix closed out the half on an 11-4 run of its own and Santa Ana drained a trey right before the buzzer and Elon trailed by three, 35-32 at the break. Thompson had nine points and three rebounds to lead the Phoenix at the half.
Led by 18-of-24 shooting in the second half and 36 combined points from Samson, Seibring, and Dawkins, Elon bounced back to earn the victory. Samson finished with 14 points, made 3-of-5 three-pointers, and hit clutch free throws down the stretch to lead the Phoenix to victory.
After Elon jumped out to a 43-39 lead after a Samson three at the 16:51 mark, Drexel took a four-point lead of its own 52-48 after two Rodney Williams free throws with 13:21 to play. Allen’s bucket at 9:14 would give the Dragons its largest lead of the half 62-56.
Undaunted, Elon used a 18-4 surge to take a 72-64 lead with 3:23 to go in the game. The Phoenix had an eight-point lead 76-68 with 1:08 remaining after a Dawkins layup, but the Dragons clawed its way back to make it a 77-74 with 20 ticks on the clock. Samson went 4-of-4 from the line in the final seconds, and the Phoenix held on to the 81-76 victory.
– The Phoenix finished 10-of-17 from three-point range tonight. Elon’s 58.8 shooting percentage from deep was the highest of the season.
– It was the first time in seven games the Phoenix has made 10 or more threes in a game Jan. 23 against James Madison.
– Elon has made 21 triples in the last two seasons inside the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
– The Phoenix sweeps the season-series against Drexel with the win tonight and an 83-78 victory on Jan. 2 in Alumni Gym.
– Brian Dawkins finished with a career-high 14 points against the Dragons.
– Elon’s senior class of Sam Hershberger, Tony Sabato, Tanner Samson and Wes Brewer have 69 wins, ties the most wins posted by an Elon senior class during the Division I era. Last year’s 2015 class of Austin Hamilton, Kevin Blake and Ryan Winters also had 69 wins in their four years with the program.
– Samson moved up to 18th on Elon’s all-time scoring list tonight after scoring 19 points. His 1,297 career points passes Ed Juratic’s (’57) 1,295 and he is nine points from passing Brett James’ (’09) 1,305 points for 17th on the list.
– The Phoenix has matched last season’s win total of 15 and conference win total of six with three regular season games remaining.
Elon heads to Towson for a noon tipoff on Saturday, Feb. 20, which will be aired on Comcast Sports Network (CSN).