GAME NOTES: The Elon Phoenix will try for their third straight win in their return home to Alumni Gym on Thursday night, as they are set to take on the UNC Greensboro Spartans in Southern Conference action.
After beginning its SoCon slate of games 3-1, UNCG has been trending in the wrong direction in recent weeks with losses in four of its last five games to slip to 4-5 in the league. The Spartans dropped a tight battle with Georgia Southern on Saturday, 64-62, to dip to 11-13 overall.
Elon has won back-to-back games on the heels of a three-game losing streak, beating Western Carolina on Jan. 30 (74-60) before downing Appalachian State on the road on Saturday (83-76). The Phoenix's run has allowed them to improve to 12-11 overall and 5-3 in the league, and they have won eight of 10 matchups on their home floor.
The Phoenix hold a 22-13 lead over UNCG in the all-time series, which includes a series sweep during the 2012-13 season.
The Spartans lost a lead with under nine minutes to play in their most recent contest, and while they never fell behind by more than five points down the stretch, they could also never overtake the lead en route to the heartbreaking two-point loss. They outshot Georgia Southern from the field, 46.8 percent to 39 percent, but lost out on several possessions by getting outrebounded by a 39-28 margin. Jordan Potts (13 points) and RJ White (11 points) were both impressive off the bench, while Kyle Cain tallied 11 points and eight rebounds but also missed the potential game-tying bucket in the waning seconds.
UNCG has established a similar theme this season, as it outshoots its opponents from the field, 44.6 percent to 44 percent, but scores fewer points (71.0 ppg) than it allows (73.4 ppg) due to a poor turnover margin (-2.7) and free-throw percentage (.676). Cain has established himself as one of the SoCon's best players, netting 15.7 ppg on 48.9 percent field-goal shooting while ripping down 9.1 rpg. Tevon Saddler (12.6 ppg, 3.1 apg) shoots just 39 percent from the field. Kayel Locke puts up 11.9 ppg and Nicholas Paulos (9.7 ppg) has made 62 3-pointers at a 40.8 percent clip.
The Phoenix built a lead as large as 17 midway through the second half over the weekend and the game was never as close down the stretch as the seven- point final would suggest. They shot a blistering 55.8 percent from the field, including 11-of-25 from 3-point range, and were paced by a 21-point effort from Lucas Troutman, who shot 8-of-10 from the field and 5-of-5 at the foul line. Sebastian Koch filled the stat sheet with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Jack Isenbarger and Ryley Beaumont put up 14 points apiece and Tanner Samson scored 11 in a reserve role.
On the season, Elon ranks first in the SoCon in field goal percentage (.476), 3-point percentage (.397) and 3-pointers per game (8.7) and second in scoring (76.4 ppg), and while its scoring defense has been far from impressive (73.7 ppg), it's been good enough to sport the league's best scoring margin at +2.7. Troutman leads the squad from the frontcourt with 15.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg and nearly two blocks per contest. Koch (13.0 ppg) and Samson (10.4 ppg) are deadly from long distance, combining for 128 3-pointers at greater than 45 percent efficiency, while Beaumont (10.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) rounds out the double-digit scorers.
With Elon surging and UNCG struggling, the Phoenix shouldn't have much of a problem dismissing the Spartans on their home floor.
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