GAME NOTES: The two top teams in the North Division of the Southern Conference meet, as the Samford Bulldogs come calling on the Elon Phoenix.
The Bulldogs are playing their third straight road game. They dropped the first two -- a narrow decision at UNC Greensboro, 66-64, and a blowout verdict at Davidson on Thursday night, 71-51. They currently sit behind Elon in second place in the SoCon North.
After losing two of their first three conference games, the Phoenix have run off six straight SoCon wins. Most recently, they took down UNC Greensboro, 72-66, on Thursday night, and currently sit atop the North Division and is second to only Davidson for the best conference record overall.
Saturday night's bout marks the ninth all-time meeting between Elon and Samford in a series the latter leads, 7-1. Elon's lone win over Samford came on Jan. 8, 2011, inside Alumni Gym in the form of a 67-54 decision.
In only its second road loss in SoCon play this season, Samford suffered a 20- point defeat at first-place Davidson. At the half, The Bulldogs only trailed 25-24, but the Wildcats opened the final period on a 20-6 run to put the game away, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field in the second half. Samford finished the game with three players scoring in double figures. Sophomore Tyler Hood and true freshman Tim Williams both finished with 12 points, while Raijon Kelly added 10 points, a game-high seven assists and two steals. With his double-digit scoring performance, Kelly continued his streak of scoring at least 10 points to all 21 games.
On the season, Williams leads the Bulldogs in both scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg). Kelly is a close second at 14.3 ppg, followed by Clide Geffrard, Jr.'s contribution of 10.0 ppg. Kelley is also handing out 4.2 apg for Samford, putting him second in the conference in that category, where he also sits in 3-point field goal percentage (.446). The Bulldogs are next-to- last in the conference in scoring offense (60.7 ppg). A bright spot is they shoot well from long-range, ranking fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.358).
Elon held off a late run by UNC Greensboro, edging out the Spartans by six. Jack Isenbarger hit a 3-pointer, his only field goal of the night, with 1:31 left after Elon trailed late, giving the Phoenix its final lead of the game. Elon's defense came through late and it knocked down 4-of-4 free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win, its sixth straight overall and sixth straight over the Spartans. Lucas Troutman led the Phoenix with 19 points, while Tanner Samson and Ryley Beaumont each chipped in with 12. Isenbarger pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Over their last two games, the Phoenix have knocked down 33 3-pointers. On the season, Troutman is shooting a healthy 53.5 percent from the floor and is averaging a team-best 15.6 ppg to go along with 5.8 rpg. He needs just five points to reach 1,000 for his career. Isenbarger averages 14.4 ppg, while Ryley Beaumont rounds out Elon's double-digit scorers with 10.4 points and a team-best 6.5 rpg. As a collective unit, Elon is putting up 70.8 ppg and giving up 64.8 ppg, and its +6.0 scoring margin is second-best in the league. They are tops in the conference in field goal defense (.400), turnover margin (+2.81), assist/turnover ratio (1.2), and 3-point field goals (8.1 per game).
Though separated by only two games in the conference standings, Elon has been playing much better basketball in the last month and has the tools to hand the Bulldogs their third straight defeat. Look for Elon's superior defense and 3- point shooting to carry the day.