The Elon University men’s basketball team cruised to a 111-55 victory over Virginia University of Lynchburg on Tuesday, Nov. 2 in Alumni Gym. The Phoenix had five players in double figures with sophomore forward Christian Hairston chipping in with a career-high 14 points and 11 rebounds in place of the injured junior center Tony Sabato.
“I was really happy with how we competed for 40 minutes,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “And these games are not easy to do that.”
VUL isn’t an NCAA team — it competes in the United States Collegiate Athletic Associaton.
But senior guard Kevin Blake’s dunk off the opening tip quickly relieved those concerns.
“I saw our guys look around and be alert,” Matheny said. “You could see it developing even before they tossed (the ball) up.”
Hairston won the tip which landed in the hands of senior forward Ryan Winters who found a streaking Blake who finished without the ball ever touching the floor.
“It was us just being aggressive off the tip, and it ended up in my hands,” Blake said.
Elon used a combination of a strong inside presence against the under-sized Dragons and outside shooting to balloon its lead to 35-10 exactly halfway through the first half. Back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore guard Luke Eddy and junior guard Tanner Samson helped extend Elon’s lead to 25 as the game began to look like shooting drills.
“That’s just the system,” Hairston said. “When you play Elon basketball, you’ll get those shots.”
The Phoenix led by as much as 27 in the opening period, but a late run from the Dragons cut the lead to 19 going into half time. The Phoenix shot 49 percent in the first half while holding VUL to 36 percent from the field and 1-of-8 from behind the arc.
Elon continued its domination in the second half. Blake had a huge alley-oop flush, getting on the end of senior guard Austin Hamilton’s pass to give Elon a 61-33 lead with 16:13 remaining.
With the victory secured, Matheny was able to go deep into his bench to play guys who rarely get a chance to take the floor. Walk-ons Sam Hershberger, Ryder Bowline, Patrick Ryan and Wes Brewer all saw action and scored.
“Those guys cheer so hard for us when we’re doing well and they’re there for us when we’re not doing well,” said Hairston. “The least we can do is get pumped up for them when they get a chance to get out there.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Bowline and Hershberger caused Alumni Gym to erupt as Elon extended its lead to 106-55. Matheny said seeing plays like that shows how guys all through the roster are dedicated to the playing his system.
“They were doing things within the system to get buckets,” he said. “Sam got an offensive rebound standing where he was supposed to be and Wes got a bucket because he was in the right spot.”
The margin of victory was the largest in Matheny's five-plus years at Elon.
Elon will play a team from the same level as VUL on Sunday, Dec. 7 when the Phoenix hosts Central Pennsylvania College. Last year, Elon manhandled Central Penn 126-78.