Men's Basketball Drops Tight Contest To Elon, 72-66
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men's basketball team rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to take a second half lead, but the Spartans dropped a hard-fought 72-66 contest to Southern Conference North Division leading Elon Thursday night at the Greensboro Coliseum. The loss drops the Spartans to 4-5 in SoCon play while the Phoenix improve to 7-2 in league action as it has won six straight games.
"I was really proud of the way our team competed to rally from a 10-point deficit to not only get back in the game, but take a lead," head coach Wes Miller said. "I thought we played well enough to win the game tonight. You have to give Elon credit as they made some big shots and big plays down the stretch."
Junior guard Trevis Simpson (Douglas, Ga./Coffee) led the Spartans with 21 points, 16 of which came in the second half, as he battled through a tough shooting night connecting on 7-of-25 from the field. Freshman forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) added 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field while battling through foul trouble the entire game.
"It was a hotly contested game that came down to the last couple of possessions," Miller said. "They made their shots and we didn't. I thought we got really good looks and got the ball to who we wanted to take those shots, it just didn't fall for us tonight and that is the breaks. I thought our defense in the second half was as good as it was for a half all year, they just hit a couple of big, contested shots."
UNCG (7-13) connected on 36.2 percent (25-of-69) from the field and 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from three-point land. The Spartans were uncharacteristically off the mark from the charity stripe as they connected on just 57.9 percent (11-of-19), despite hitting all six free throws in the second half. UNCG forced Elon into 25 turnovers and converted those miscues into 34 points.
Elon (14-7) connected on 45.8 percent (22-of-48) from the field and 8-of-20 (40%) from three-point land. The Phoenix held a distinct advantage at the free throw line hitting 20-of-25 (80%). Lucas Troutman scored a team-high 19 points, while Tanner Samson and Ryley Beaumont each added 12 points.
Elon came out of the gate quickly as it jumped out to a 9-2 lead as the Phoenix hit its first three three-pointers, including a pair by Samson. The Spartans weathered the early storm and posted a 14-4 run to take a 16-13 lead with just over 13 minutes remaining in the half. UNCG used a balanced scoring attack in the run as five different players scored in the stretch with senior Derrell Armstrong (Mechanicsville, Md./Allegany CC) leading the way with five points.
Elon closed the half on a 16-3 run to take a 39-29 lead into the locker room as Troutman started to get going down low for the Phoenix as he scored 11 points during the stretch. UNCG went an 8:49 stretch between field goals as it missed 14 straight shots from the field.
UNCG connected on just 31.4 percent (11-of-35) from the field and hit only 38.5 percent (5-of-13) from the free throw line. Armstrong led the Spartans with eight points while Simpson was held to just five points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field after scoring 27 first half points last game. Elon connected on 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from the field and 75 percent (9-of-12) from the free throw line in the first half. Troutman led all scorers with 11 points while Samson added nine points.
The Spartans came out of the halftime break with the look of a new team as they scored the first nine points of the half on their way to a 13-3 start to tie the game at 42-42 and force Elon into an early timeout. The UNCG defense forced Elon into five turnovers in the first five possessions of the half while Locke scored seven points in the first five minutes of the half.
Elon responded to the run with a spurt of its own as it took a 55-46 lead with a 13-4 run. UNCG did not back down though as it scored 10 straight points on its way to a 13-1 run to take a 59-56 lead. Simpson started to heat up with a pair of three-pointers before sophomore Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) nailed a long distance shot in transition for the three-point lead.
The teams battled down the stretch as Simpson tied the game at 64-64 before Troutman hit a pair of free throws at the 2:48 mark to give Elon a 66-64 lead. Locke stepped up for the Spartans and converted an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Spartans the lead back at 67-66.
Jack Isenbarger had Elon's biggest shot of the night on the ensuing possession as he hit a deep three-pointer to give the Phoenix the lead back at 69-67 despite being 0-for-10 from the field to that point. The Spartans went to Simpson on the following possession and he drove the lane and scored what looked like the game-tying basket, but he was called for the offensive foul to the dismay of the home crowd wiping out the basket.
UNCG had another chance after forcing the Phoenix into its 25th turnover of the night. Simpson drove down the paint and looked to lay the ball into the hoop but it swung around the rim perilously before falling off the edge giving the ball back to Elon. The Phoenix hit its last four free throws in the final 26 seconds to seal the victory.
Armstrong finished the game with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and also notched four steals. Junior David Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) gabbed a team-high seven rebounds while also recording four steals as UNCG posted 17 thefts on the night.
Isenbarger only scored six points for the Phoenix but none bigger than his lone three-pointer while also grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. Sebastian Koch and Josh Bonney added nine points in the victory for Elon.
The Spartans hit the road Saturday night as they travel to the College of Charleston for the final regular season game against the Cougars as part of the SoCon. Game time is set for 7 p.m. with the game broadcast on ESPN3.com and the Watch ESPN App.
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