The Elon University men’s basketball team (12-7, 4-2) beat league-favorite College of Charleston (12-6, 3-3) in Alumni Gym 63-58 Saturday night as they continued Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) action. The Phoenix came into the contest having won just one of their last eight matchups against the Cougars.
Junior guard Steven Santa Ana was a bright spot early in the Phoenix offense, connecting on his first five shots, including 4 three-pointers; however, it was the defense that was the headline in the first half. College of Charleston, who leads the CAA in scoring defense, was able to stifle a potent Elon offense, taking a 31-26 lead into the break after twenty minutes.
The Phoenix came out of the locker room on fire, lead by Santa Ana picking up right where he left off in the first half.
“In practice and stuff lately I’ve been feeling good just keep working that shot; just grinding that stroke.” Santa Ana said. “Today I just came into warm-ups feeling really good and once you’re dialed in, once you hit that first shot … it feels good and you think everything you put up is going to go in that night.”
Santa Ana would finish the game with 23 points, going 7-11 from the field and 6-8 from beyond the arc. His performance stood out tonight as he was one of only four Elon scorers all game.
“I didn’t realize it,” head coach Matt Matheny said “Maybe these guys did. But we don’t look at that very much.”
“Not everything shows up in points,” Santa Ana said. “These guys came in and played really good minutes and did a lot of good things for us.”
The Cougars fell cold for a stretch as Elon went on a 12-0 run midway through the second half, allowing Elon to open a double-digit lead. Charleston found their groove again with under ten minutes to play and pulled back within two.
A big-time dunk by senior guard Dmitri Thompson with just a minute left launched the home crowd into a frenzy, and kept the game at arm’s length from the Cougars.
“They were trying late in the game to get us discombobulated but he knows exactly what to look for,” junior forward Tyler Seibring said about his pass that set up the Thompson dunk. “We were on the same page when that pass happened and he had a great back-cut, quick movement and he just had it right there and I definitely trust [Dmitri] to finish that one.”
Thompson would be called on once again late to hit two clutch free throws, giving Elon a three-point advantage and forcing them to defend one last inbound play from Charleston to sneak away with a win. A deep three point attempt was no good from Charleston, and following a rebound and two made free throws from Santa Ana, Elon iced the game sending the Alumni Gym crowd home satisfied.
The Phoenix will be back in action Thursday, Jan. 18 as they travel north to face the Dukes of James Madison University.