Gainesville, FL —  A late first half lapse cost the Elon University men’s basketball team in its season opener, as the Phoenix fell to the University of Florida Gators, 74-61.

A three-pointer from junior guard Hunter Woods cut Florida’s lead to 12-11 with 13:21 remaining in the first half, but the Gators pulled away from there, finishing the half on a 35-13 run to take a 47-24 halftime lead. 

Florida’s size and physicality proved pivotal in the first half, as the Gators outrebounded the Phoenix 26-12, blocked six shots and earned 18 free throws. Additionally, Elon had no answers in the first half for Florida’s Colin Castleton, who scored 17 points to go with four rebounds, three blocks and two assists in a dominant all-around display. 

While Elon recovered to outscore Florida 37-27 in the second half, Head Coach Mike Schrage said that did not serve as a moral victory to his team. 

“I’m very disappointed that we let the game get away from us in the first half,” Schrage said. “I am proud of how our guys continued to fight in the second half, but there’s no consolation.”

Sophomore forward Michael Graham led the Phoenix with 16 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard and preseason All-CAA first team selection Hunter McIntosh scored 15 points, but also had four turnovers. Senior guard Torrence Watson posted 10 points this evening, in his first game at Elon after transferring from the University of Missouri this offseason. 

Florida has qualified for the NCAA Tournament each of the last four seasons, one of just 12 schools to do so. The Gators are projected to finish seventh in the Southeastern Conference this season, a league that sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament in April. The Phoenix is projected to finish sixth in the Colonial Athletic Association.  

With several other challenging non-conference games on the horizon, Schrage said the Phoenix must look to improve to contend against this level of opposition. 

“We will have to grow up quickly and continue to get better,” Schrage said. 

The Phoenix will return to action on Friday, Nov. 12 for its home opener against the Randolph College WildCats, an NCAA Division III opponent.