On Monday night local rivals UNCG and Elon faced off in the Greensboro Coliseum. This was the third Southern Conference game for UNCG early in the season as the large Southern Conference slate causes teams to have several early-season conference games. UNCG found themselves before this game sitting at 0-2 after facing off against North Division opponents Western Carolina and Appalachian State a few days earlier. Elon was off to a 1-0 start after defeating Furman.
Elon and UNCG appear to be two programs moving in opposite directions. After years of futility dwelling at the bottom of the SoCon, Elon has been picked as a sleeper pick to challenge Davidson, Charleston, and Chattanooga for the SoCon's automatic NCAA tournament bid. They pulled an early upset at home against South Carolina (which with each passing day appears to only be a nominal upset as the Gamecocks look destined for a bottom of the SEC finish).
UNCG has been struggling to make it to double-digit wins ever since all-everything forward Kyle Hines graduated a few years ago. The Spartans have big aspirations in the basketball-crazy state of North Carolina. As I mentioned in a previous post, the move to the Greensboro Coliseum a few years ago has not really boosted excitement for the program, while most of the stadium sits cold and empty unless another local powerhouse team decides to play a "neutral" or "road" game in the building. Both programs are striving for relevance. And relevance only comes with sustained success and genuine excitement from the student body and the local community. And even on a night when two schools that sit 20 miles apart face off in an early but important SoCon matchup, there was not much excitement in the air.
The game was competitive early as both sides traded runs throughout much of the first half. But late in the first half, Elon went on a run to build a double-digit lead. As the second half began, UNCG came out with a lot of intensity and nearly pulled the game even at the first media timeout. But the intensity out of the locker room faded during the timeout, as Elon started pulling away and held off a late UNCG run that kept things interesting, but ultimately failed.
Elon now takes a 2-0 SoCon record into the exam and Christmas schedule. Unlike the 0-3 hole that UNCG finds themselves in, 2-0 is much easier to swallow. From what I saw Elon appears to be a talented and well-coached team. The North Division appears to be weak this year as pre-season favorite Chattanooga has struggled to 2-6 (0-2) record. This may be Elon's year to take the North, and perhaps have a few balls bounce their way in the conference tournament. UNCG looks headed for another year where they will struggle to make it to a .500 record in SoCon play. The SoCon Championships of 1996 and 2001 now seem impossibly far away.
ELON 80, at NORTH CAROLINA-GREENSBORO 72 12/05/2011
ELON 6-2 (2-0) -- D. Anderson 3-6 4-5 10; J. Isenbarger 7-17 2-2 19; L. Troutman 8-9 3-4 19; R. Beaumont 3-4 3-4 9; D. Spradlin 2-6 0-0 4; A. Hamilton 2-6 2-2 7; S. Koch 3-5 2-2 10; K. Blake 2-4 0-0 4; B. Ervin 1-2 0-0 3; J. Bonney 1-4 0-0 2; E. Edomwonyi 0-2 0-0 0; R. Dugas 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 30-60 12-14 80. NORTH CAROLINA-GREENSBORO 2-7 (0-3) -- A. Brackett 2-7 2-2 6; D. Parker 3-10 0-1 9; K. Van Dussen 6-10 1-2 13; T. Simpson 8-16 7-9 27; K. Randall 1-5 0-0 2; D. Williams 2-2 2-4 6; N. Paulos 2-8 0-0 5; A. Henry 1-4 2-2 4; E. Bone 0-3 0-4 0; D. Armstrong 0-1 0-0 0; T. Hoffer 0-0 0-0 0; C. Henegar 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-67 14-24 72.
Three-point goals: ELON 8-20 (J. Bonney 0-1; D. Spradlin 0-1; B. Ervin 1-1; R. Dugas 1-1; J. Isenbarger 3-9; S. Koch 2-3; A. Hamilton 1-3; K. Blake 0-1), UNCG 8-26 (K. Randall 0-3; K. Van Dussen 0-2; D. Parker 3-8; T. Simpson 4-7; D. Armstrong 0-1; N. Paulos 1-5); Rebounds: ELON 32 (S. Koch 9), UNCG 35 (A. Brackett 9); Assists: ELON 12 (A. Hamilton 4), UNCG 13 (D. Williams 4); Total Fouls -- ELON 21, UNCG 16; Fouled Out: ELON-D. Spradlin; UNCG-None.