UNC Greensboro (12-17) at Elon (13-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 25th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alumni Gym (1,585) -- Elon, North Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: UNCG 7-5, Elon 9-4. Away Record: UNCG 4-12, Elon 4-11. Neutral Record: UNCG 1-0, Elon 0-0. Conference Record: UNCG 10-7, Elon 8-9. Series Record: Elon leads, 18-13.
GAME NOTES: The Elon Phoenix go for the season sweep of the UNC Greensboro Spartans tonight, as the two will close out the regular season in a Southern Conference tussle at Alumni Gym.
Elon notched an 80-72 win in Greensboro back on Dec. 5 to extend its lead in the all-time series to 18-13.
Despite a recent rough patch, UNC Greensboro still managed to clinch the SoCon North Division regular-season crown on Thursday night when Elon and Samford both lost. The Spartans recently reeled off 10 wins in a span of 11 games, but they have since lost two straight. After losing by 14 at Georgia Southern last Saturday, the Spartans followed that up with a 68-56 home loss to Wofford this past Tuesday.
Had Elon found a way to knock off South Division-leading Davidson on Thursday night, today's matchup against UNCG would have been for first place in the North. Instead, Elon was dealt an ugly 66-45 loss for its fifth consecutive setback. Still, the Phoenix have a chance for a first-round bye in the upcoming league tournament with a victory today.
The Spartans led Wofford for much of the first half Tuesday night, but the Terriers shot 61 percent after halftime and gradually pulled away. UNCG, which was without SoCon scoring leader Trevis Simpson (toe) for the second time in the last three games, shot just 37 percent in that decisive second half. Without their go-to scorer down the stretch of a tight game, the Spartans instead relied on reserve Derrell Armstrong, who lofted 17 shots en route to a game-high 19 points. Korey Van Dussen was the lone starter in double figures, finishing with 11 points. UNCG was out-scored at the foul line 18-9 and was also out-rebounded 31-24. The Spartans finished with only eight assists to go along with 15 turnovers. On the season, Simpson is averaging 18.0 points per game and has attempted more than twice as many shots than any other teammate except Armstrong. The sophomore guard is questionable with his bothersome toe, but with the division already clinched as well as a first-round bye, head coach Matt Matheny may opt to rest his star player to try and get him healthy for the postseason. Should he be held out, the scoring onus will once again fall heavily on Armstrong, who is averaging 16.0 points per game in league play.
Throughout Elon's five-game losing streak, the defensive effort has been lacking. But on Thursday night, with plenty on the line, the team simply turned in a horrid offensive performance. Top scorers Lucas Troutman and Jack Isenbarger saw their minutes limited in the first half due to foul trouble, yet Elon still trailed by only four at the break. But the wheels came completely off in the second half, as the Phoenix managed just six field goals over the final 20 minutes (.273) en route to its second-lowest scoring output of the season. Davidson's De'Mon Brooks nearly matched Elon's second-half scoring total by himself with 19 points. Troutman was the Phoenix's only player in double figures, finishing with 15 points. The Wildcats' 50-35 rebounding advantage -- including a 20-7 edge on the offensive glass -- proved to be a key factor in the outcome. They also forced Elon into 15 turnovers, scoring 21 points off those miscues. Isenbarger is averaging 13.7 ppg on the season, and in conference play his scoring 16.9 ppg while shooting an impressive 43.7 percent from beyond the arc (52-of-119). But on Thursday night, he was held to six points on 2-of-8 shooting and also committed three turnovers. If the Phoenix hopes to make some noise in the SoCon Tournament, it can ill-afford to have its top scorer disappear for large stretches at a time.
With no seeding to gain by winning this matchup, don't be surprised to see the Spartans take their foot off the gas pedal a bit here and get some of their starters rested up for March basketball. Elon still has a shot at a first- round bye and figures to rebound with a much better effort at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Elon 72, UNC Greensboro 68
02/25 10:39:26 ET