DEKALB, Ill. – The Elon University men’s basketball team overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to defeat the Northern Illinois Huskies, 85-80, in double-overtime on Friday, Nov. 25, at the NIU Thanksgiving Classic.
Steven Santa Ana led the way for the Phoenix with 20 points and seven rebounds. Brian Dawkins and Tyler Seibringadded 15 points each and Luke Eddy scored 10 as well as recording a team-high five assists. In addition, Dainan Swoope tied a career-high with seven boards.
“We are very pleased with this win,” said head coach Matt Matheny. “It only counts as one victory but I think it was a victory we can really build on. We were faced with adversity of them playing well and us not in the first half. For our guys to come back and play with a great resolve in the second half and in both overtimes is something we can definitely build on.”
The Huskies had an early 9-6 lead, but a block and a three-pointer from Sheldon Eberhardt tied the game with 13:11 left in the half. Swoope’s triple at the 12:53 mark gave the Phoenix its first lead of the game, 12-9.
NIU responded with a 14-4 run over the next 5:52 to take a 25-16 lead with 5:59 remaining in the first stanza. A quick 5-2 spurt, capped off by Christian Hairston’s layup at 3:54, brought the Phoenix within three, 27-24. However, Northern Illinois kept Elon scoreless over the final 3:53 of the half and used a 6-0 run to take a 33-24 lead at the break.
The Phoenix opened the second half with an 11-5 run to tie the game 38-38 at 15:32 after Hairston’s layup. Then, the Huskies responded with an 8-2 run over the next 3:15 to take a 46-40 lead. Elon battled back to take its first lead of the half 57-56 after a Dawkins tip-in with 5:35 left in regulation.
With the game remained close over the final five-minute stretch and NIU tied the game 62-62 after Aaric Armstead’s layup with 58 seconds left. The Phoenix held strong on the final shot as the Huskies missed a layup under pressure and the game went to overtime.
Luke Eddy made a clutch three-pointer with 1:10 left in the first overtime after NIU had taken a 68-67 lead 30 seconds earlier. Armstead followed with two made free throws with 58 seconds on the clock to tie the score at 70-70. Santa Ana’s final look at a game-winner from three missed to send the game into a second overtime.
The Phoenix opened the first 2:51 of the second overtime with a 9-4 run that gave Elon a 79-74 lead and forced NIU to take a timeout. The run extended to 12-4 over the first 4:09 of the period after a Swoope free throw with 49 seconds to play.
The Huskies outscored the Phoenix 6-3 over the final 38 seconds, but Elon held on for the 85-80 double-overtime win.
– Elon is off to a 4-1 start for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
– It was the first double-overtime game for the Phoenix since Feb. 2, 2012. Elon defeated College of Charleston 99-98 after two extra periods.
– The Phoenix has had four or more players in double-figures in fourth consecutive game. Santa Ana (20), Dawkins (15), Seibring (15) and Eddy (10) all finished in double-figures against NIU.
– The last time Elon won three straight games away from home was during the 2013-14 season. The three-game span went from Feb. 2-22 with wins at App State, UNCG and Georgia Southern.
– Steven Santa Ana scored 20 or more points for the second time this season and the third time in his career. He scored 32 against Charlotte on Nov. 14. It’s also the second straight game that Elon has had a player score 20+ as Swoope score 26 against UIC on Wednesday.
– Elon is now 3-4 all-time against MAC teams and have won two straight against teams from the conference.
– The Phoenix is 3-0 in its first three road and/or neutral games for the first time during the program’s Division I era.
The Phoenix heads into Saturday’s matchup against Cal Poly with a chance to win the NIU Thanksgiving Classic. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. eastern time (1 p.m. CT) against the Mustangs.