From the opening tip, the Elon University men's basketball team seemed to lack the intensity and energy they typically exert every night. The College of Charleston Cougars came into Alumni Gym on Wednesday Jan. 14, and took it over. The Phoenix fell by a final score of 66-50.
“This one doesn’t feel good…because we never got into a rhythm offensively,” coach Matt Matheny said. “Charleston controlled the tempo of the game with their ability to run the offense to get the shots they wanted to take.”
Coming into the game, College of Charleston was winless in the Colonial Athletic Association conference and had lost eight straight games. However, they came ready to play. The Cougars maintained a lead in the game for over 30 minutes and managed to shoot 53 percent from beyond the arc and from the field.
The first half was neck and neck. Elon and College of Charleston traded the lead six times and were held at a tie three times. For Elon, senior guard Kevin Blake and freshman guard Elijah Bryant were the first half generals on the court. Blake kept the tempo up, rushing the ball down the court, while contributing nine points. Bryant also put up nine points with two assists and a steal. Going into the half, Elon trailed 31-27.
At the start of the second half it proved to be more of the same for the Elon offense, shots were simply not falling. The Phoenix shot 30 percent from the field and did not hit one three point shot in the second half. Perhaps a factor in the lack of offense for Elon was the dull performance from junior guard Tanner Samson, one of the leading scorers on the team. Samson didn’t have any points in the loss and was 0-2 from the field. While Elon was missing, College of Charleston was making shots.
In the first four minutes, the Cougars scored nine points, giving them a sizeable lead and forcing Elon to switch up their defense. The Phoenix tried man-to-man, 1-3-1 zone and small lineups, all of which proved to be ineffective. College of Charleston’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Canyon Berry, son of former NBA player Rick Berry, lit up the Elon defense with 23 points, including an eight point run in the second half.
“We have to contest and make them miss their shots," Bryant said.
The inability to control College of Charleston’s shooters, allowed the Cougars to shoot nearly 60 percent from the field and win the game. Of course, no loss is easy to swallow but senior guard Kevin Blake emphasized the point of bouncing back from a tough loss and coming out stronger in the next game.
“We got to pick our heads up, and be ready to learn…the season’s not close to finished," Blake said.
Matheny believes this loss will serve as a future motivator for the team to learn to come out with more energy. With the conference tournament not too far away, Matheny stressed the importance of facing adversity and overcoming it by everyone stepping their game up. For the Elon players, tomorrow's practice may have a different feel with intensity being a main focus for everyone.
“We’ll have their attention tomorrow (at practice),” he said. “We have to learn how to get knocked to the mat and get back up.”
Elon will next travel to James Madison University on Saturday, Jan. 17 to take on the Dukes.