It was just one of those nights where everything seemed to sink for senior guard Austin Hamilton who finished with a career-high 31 points on Saturday, Jan. 24.
The Elon University men’s basketball team rode the senior’s performance all the way to a 94-82 victory over the University of Delaware Blue Hens to end a four-game losing streak and its third win in conference play.
“Everybody shot the ball well.” Freshman forward Christian Hairston said, “I believe in Austin and everybody on this team and that’s what’s going to keep us going throughout the year.”
Five different Phoenix players finished the game in double figures. Hamilton’s career performance of 31 points led the team by a wide margin, however a plethora of veterans paved the rest of the game. Senior guard Kevin Blake finished second on the team in scoring with 19 total points as well as a huge dunk early in the first half, while junior guard Tanner Samson finished third with 12 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds.
Freshmen Elijah Bryant and Hairston each finished with 10 points a piece with each registering 17 minutes of playing time.
“I thought we got contributions from a lot of guys.” head coach Matt Matheny said, “What a great night for our team and Elon and a great energetic crowd but I really thought our guys played with a calm aggression, I thought everybody was aggressive.”
Aggressiveness and rebounding were resounding themes in the win as the Phoenix doubled its offensive rebounds from its last game against Towson University, in which it only managed eight to its 16 on Saturday night.
The game got off to a slow start for Elon offensively as the Phoenix only put up five points after the first five minutes. Fouls were an issue early in the first half as the Phoenix had six in the opening minutes. Elon played well and captured some momentum after the first media timeout in which Hamilton hit his first three-pointer of the game.
Both teams traded leads up until halftime when Elijah Bryant hit a buzzer-beating field goal to give the Phoenix a 41-39 as both teams entered the locker rooms.
In the opening ten minutes of the second half, the sold out crowd at Alumni Gym witnessed a lights-out performance from Hamilton who hit two huge three-pointers and an additional three field goals to make him six of seven from inside the arc.
“I have to give credit to my teammates.” Hamilton said, “They were finding me, they were trusting me to make big shots. Thank god they went in.”
A 7-0 run by Delaware late in the second half caused Matheny to call an ensuing timeout to re-group the offense in order to find its groove again.
A lay-up by Hamilton put a halt to the Blue Hen run and started a back-and-forth battle between the teams with Hamilton hitting another three along with Kevin Blake, Tanner Samson and freshman forward Collin Luther. Elon would then take a lead it would not relinquish as Delaware was forced to intentionally foul the Phoenix to close out the game.
“We have to go back to work now.” Matheny said with a smile, “It’s only one game but we get to smile and laugh a little bit. We can take a deep breath and smell the roses tomorrow then get back to work.”
Elon will have a few days of rest before it takes a trip to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on Jan. 28. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.