ELON, N.C. – A winning play. That’s how head coach Matt Matheny described Lucas Troutman’s 94-foot sprint to block a Chattanooga shot immediately after finishing an alley-oop layup that put Elon back on top — for good. Troutman finished with 21 points to lead four Phoenix in double figures as Elon staked claim of first place in the Southern Conference North Division with an 88-87 victory over the visiting Chattanooga Mocs in front of a sellout crowd on Saturday night in Alumni Gym.
Elon (9-9, 4-3) overcame a nine-point second-half deficit to earn the important league victory and saw several players eclipse new career highs. Chattanooga (9-12, 3-5) suffered its third straight conference loss.
“Our backs have been against the wall lately,” noted Matheny. “We’ve lost some close games, but we had a choice — throw in the towel or fight. And we are going to fight. That is why this is an Elon basketball victory tonight.”
After UTC’s Omar Wattad hit his fifth triple of the night to give the Mocs an 83-82 lead with 1:23 to play, Jack Isenbarger found Troutman behind the defense for the alley-oop and the 84-83 advantage. Troutman made the game-changing block on the other end and Austin Hamilton and Isenbarger made good from the free throw line in the final minute to all but secure the victory. Keegan Bell’s final three-point attempt went off the rim and the Phoenix halted a three-game home losing streak.
Hamilton nailed 4-of-8 from beyond the arc for a personal-best 20 points to go along with five assists on the night. Isenbarger contributed 19 points and six rebounds and forward Ryley Beaumont looked impressive with a 7-of-10 night from the field for a career-high 15 points. Elon got 78 points from its starting five.
Wattad was a thorn in Elon’s side all night, scoring at game-high 25 points and coming up with big shots at critical points in the game. Z. Mason netted 18 points and grabbed 11 boards off the bench and Ricky Taylor added 17 points.
Chattanooga ended the first half with a three-pointer at the buzzer to break a tie ball game and then opened on a 12-4 run that gave the visitors a 53-44 advantage at the 15:39 mark. A Matheny timeout followed a second Wattad triple that gave the Mocs’ their biggest lead of the game.
Elon responded with a 12-5 stretch of its own, as Troutman converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a 58-56 contest with 12:54 on the clock. The lead would change hands eight times over the next five minutes.
A Hamilton floater in the lane as the shot clock wound down gave the Phoenix a 74-72 advantage with 6:26 on the clock. Elon would grow its lead to as many as six, 81-75, with under four to play before an 8-1 UTC run, capped by the Wattad three ball, put the lead back in Chattanooga’s hands.
The Phoenix shot 48.4 percent from the field, including 58.6 percent in the second half. Seven players tallied assists for the Phoenix as Elon had 18 assists on 31 buckets. Elon also had nine steals on 15 Chattanooga miscues, scoring 22 points off turnovers.
Chattanooga finished the evening shooting 45.5 percent, including 47.4 (9-19) from long range. The Mocs won the board battle, 42-36, and scored 17 second-chance points.
Elon led for all but a minute of the first half, going ahead by as many as nine midway through.
The Phoenix will make road trips to two division rivals next week, beginning with a matchup at Western Carolina on Thursday, January 26. The game will tip at 7 p.m. in Cullowhee, N.C.