The Elon University men’s basketball team struggled early on against the Central Pennsylvania College Knights.

Things picked up in the second half though, with the Phoenix cruising its way to a 117-73 blowout win.

Although the game could have been considered as an exhibition matchup, junior guard Tanner Samson was confident in his team’s ability to show up and play with intensity with a looming four-game road stretch ahead.

“It’s a great test for us as a team,” Samson said. “To see players we have never seen before and different styles of offenses it definitely helps us.”

Samson led the charge for the Phoenix early and often scoring 25 points and recording the first double-double of his career. Samson shot 70 percent from three-point range in the first half and nearly broke the school record for three-pointers in a single game with seven makes.

“It’s great when my team is behind me,” he said. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, so I have to give a little bit of credit to them.”

Senior guard Kevin Blake also had a big day from all areas of the court, registering 19 total points. Blake sunk a key 3-pointer early on to jump-start the Elon offense into the latter part of the first half. The senior also had a defining dunk that put the Phoenix up by 20 and sealed the game for good.

Blake’s dunk was one of many slams that brought the Alumni Gym crowd to life. An alley-oop from sophomore point guard Luke Eddy to freshman guard Dmitri Thompson fired up the student section for the remainder of the game.

“It’s awesome, it’s a beautiful thing,” Elon head coach Matt Matheny said in response to the dunks. “That play where Luke passed to Dmitri, that’s a high-level play right there.”

Thompson and Eddy both had big games as well, combining to score 33 points together. Like Samson, Eddy was also very efficient from the three-point line as he made 3-of-4 attempts.

Along with his 15 points, Eddy also had a pair of steals and three rebounds that provided a spark for the offense early in the second half.

“I love playing like that,” Eddy said. “We had to open it up a little bit down the stretch, run them down, then the points eventually started to come.”

It was the second game in a row for the Phoenix where a large majority of the roster saw game action with 13 players each registering at least one point. Of the 13 scorers, nine were either freshmen or sophomores.

With the youth of the roster present, Thompson said he believes that the level of maturity has increased on the team.

“As a player, I believe that I’ve matured a lot,” Thompson said. “Having great leaders beside me, they’re helping me big time and I feel like we have to mature to be successful.”

The Phoenix will have five days to prepare for stiffer competition when it travels to Columbia, Missouri to face off against the University of Missouri on Dec. 11. It will be the first of four games played away from Alumni Gym until Dec. 28.

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