On a night of much-improved shooting all the way around for the Elon University men's basketball team, a single shot from a player who had been struggling from the field as of late counted the most.
Junior guard Jack Isenbarger hit a three-pointer from the right wing with 2.3 seconds left to give the Phoenix a 70-69 victory over the Columbia University Lions Saturday afternoon.
In the Phoenix's last game before Christmas, Elon (7-5 overall, 1-1 Southern Conference) found itself down two with time winding down. The plan was to allow sophomore guard Austin Hamilton an opportunity to drive, but Columbia's defense had other ideas.
“We were looking to give Austin a shot at driving to the lane, but I managed to slip out from the corner and he found me and somehow the shot went in," Isenbarger told ElonPhoenix.com.
Columbia senior guard Brian Barbour had a shot to win it at the buzzer for the Lions, but his baseline jumper rimmed out as the Phoenix snapped a losing streak that was threatening to reach three games. It would have been the longest such streak on the young season.
Junior forward Lucas Troutman scored a game-high 23 points on 11-of-19 shooting (his 11th straight game scoring in double-figures), while Isenbarger notched 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting (4-of-6 from beyond the arc), shooting better than 45 percent from the field for the first time since Nov. 24 against the Virginia Military Institute. Everybody on the Phoenix shot much better, as Elon hit 50.8 percent of its shots, its best performance since shooting 52.5 percent against Division III Bridgewater College Nov. 13. Each player that stepped on the floor for Elon scored at least two points.
"Everybody that played tonight scored and contributed in a big way," Elon head coach Matt Matheny said to ElonPhoenix.com." I’m pleased with the way we broke out of our shooting slump and shot the ball from the floor tonight as well. It was a great basketball game to be a part of and I’m so proud of the way our guys fought and grinded out a win.”
Tied at 28 with four minutes left in the first half, the Phoenix closed the half on a 10-2 run to go into halftime with a 38-30 lead. But the Lions went on a 17-4 run midway through the second half to gain a 53-51 advantage with 10:15 left in the frame.
Barbour and fellow senior guard Steve Frankoski had chances to put the game away, but both missed the first shot of their one-and-one free throw attempts, allowing Isenbarger his chance to give Elon the win.
Junior forward Ryley Beaumont added ten points and grabbed a game-best nine rebounds for the Phoenix, who bounced back from a 76-54 loss to No. 1 Duke University just two nights prior.
Frankoski led Columbia with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, 6-of-7 from three-point range, off the bench. Senior center Mark Cisco added ten points and snagged seven rebounds for the Lions.
Elon will play its final game of the calendar year Dec. 31 at home against Division III Manchester University.