Coming into the final weekend of the regular season I was looking into how I could pull off another Saturday doubleheader. The previous 5 Saturdays I was able to make it to at least two games, so I was hoping to do the same for the final push to 800 games. The possibilities were there to do it, especially up in Spartanburg where USC-Upstate and Wofford were playing in the day and night respectively. Ian McCormick was already planning to do both, so I looked elsewhere. There was the city rivalry game between Citadel and College of Charleston which I thought started at noon giving me ample time to travel elsewhere. Once I learned that game was starting at 3, I figured I would try something different. I eventually settled on going to just one game up in Elon when they would be hosting UNC-Greensboro. When I made the decision to go, there was still a possibility that the game would determine the winner of the Southern Conference North Division. While none of the teams within the division have a winning record, it would still be an accomplishment for either team considering the low expectations for both coming into the season. As it would turn out, UNCG would clinch the division when Elon lost to Davidson on Thursday. It would be the Phoenix's 5th loss in a row, and while the game against the Spartans wouldn't be for a division title, they were still going to be playing for a 1st round bye in the SoCon tournament.
Even when I decided I wanted to go to Elon I almost missed out on getting a ticket. Many mid-majors use the same online ticketing system which allows you to pick exactly where you want to sit. I'm a huge fan and have been able to pick out some much better seats than what was automatically given to me in the past. When I went to purchase the tickets for Elon, there were only maybe 20 seats left to choose. There was one lone seat in the lower section near center court, so I snatched it up quickly. With the seemingly sold out crow in the small Alumni Hall, I was hoping for a cramped and noisy atmosphere.
The drive to Elon was very familiar to one I have been taking as of late. Since I've already been to a few UNCG home games, I can do the drive without directions. The drive to Elon is essentially the same with an additional 20 minute trip to the east added on. I'm a fan of NASCAR, and the Nationwide race from Daytona was on. While I didn't experience any bump drafting, just listening to the race made the 3 and half hour drive fly right by (congrats to "mid-major" driver James Buescher on the win).
It was interesting getting to Elon University. It feels like you are in the middle of a subdivision and boom there's a university right in the middle of it. The Alumni Hall had a really weird feel to it. The floors in the stands were carpeted and there was some weird architecture within. I almost felt like I was in a theater about to watch a play.
Elon is a young team; they start four sophomores and only have one senior for the Senior Night activities and Drew Spradlin was honored before a record crowd on the evening. He would eventually end up scoring the game's first bucket about 5 seconds in.
The previous game I had been to was at College of Charleston where the team seemed very amped up for their final home game and went on a big run early. Elon went on to do the same thing and tore off a big 21-2 run in the first 6 minutes. I had seen beforehand that both teams were in the top 40 of tempo, and neither disappointed. The problem for the Spartans was they were overwhelmed in the beginning and couldn't get anything to fall. The Phoenix kept the pressure on had a 36-14. Lucas Troutman was throwing down dunks and getting to the line while the outside game was working for Jack Isenbarger with four 3's in that stretch.
UNCG was able to start to make a game of it and score the next 10 points. Trevis Simpson and Derrell Armstrong, who have been carrying the Spartans all year, were the catalysts in getting UNCG back into the game. A good amount of Spartan fans had made the 20-minute trip and finally had something to cheer about. The teams continued to trade buckets the rest of the half and Elon ended up with a 48-39 lead.
I didn't think Elon would be able to keep up its crazy pace and it looked that way to begin the half when UNCG had the lead down to 6 in a hurry after two Simpson jumpers. Ryley Beaumont responded with two lay-ins for the Phoenix to get back up by 10. The next few minutes were played at video game level speeds, but with little production. The offenses were essentially dribble up and chuck it or make one pass then launch it. Needless to say it was exciting to watch, but would have been better if the shots were falling.
The coaches were able to slow things down to a more moderate pace and in turn the offenses started producing more. Elon was back to its hot shooting ways and Isenbarger made some tough shots to push the Phoenix ahead even further. The game looked to be all but over after Sebastian Koch converted an acrobatic 3-point play and an 18 point lead.
The Spartans had one final push at the end and had the lead down to 10 with less than 3 minutes to go. It unraveled for UNCG though after a controversial call. UNCG had an Elon player trapped in the corner and what was originally called a 5 second call, was overturned to a timeout. Wes Miller was furious and got himself T'd up for his foul language that most could hear. After the made free throws for Elon, it was too much for UNCG to come back.
The loss didn't mean too much for the Spartans since they still had the division crown in hand, but they have little momentum with three straight losses heading into the SoCon Tournament. It was a big win for Elon though as they would secure the North Division's second seed and the all-important bye that comes with it.
at ELON 93, NORTH CAROLINA-GREENSBORO 79 02/25/2012
NORTH CAROLINA-GREENSBORO 12-18 (10-8) -- D. Armstrong 6-19 2-2 14; T. Simpson 10-22 2-3 22; D. Parker 2-5 0-1 4; D. Williams 1-3 4-10 6; K. Van Dussen 4-6 1-2 9; N. Paulos 4-8 0-0 12; A. Brackett 2-6 0-1 4; T. Hoffer 0-2 0-1 0; K. Randall 1-2 2-2 4; A. Henry 1-1 2-3 4; C. Henegar 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-75 13-25 79. ELON 14-15 (9-9) -- S. Koch 2-8 3-3 7; R. Beaumont 9-13 2-4 20; L. Troutman 4-10 10-15 18; J. Isenbarger 7-15 4-4 24; D. Spradlin 2-7 4-6 9; A. Hamilton 3-5 3-4 11; E. Edomwonyi 0-0 1-3 1; B. Ervin 1-2 0-0 3; J. Bonney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-61 27-39 93.
Three-point goals: UNCG 4-17 (T. Hoffer 0-1; D. Parker 0-2; T. Simpson 0-4; D. Armstrong 0-2; N. Paulos 4-8), ELON 10-20 (D. Spradlin 1-3; B. Ervin 1-1; J. Isenbarger 6-9; S. Koch 0-4; A. Hamilton 2-3); Rebounds: UNCG 41 (D. Armstrong 8), ELON 43 (S. Koch 12); Assists: UNCG 6 (D. Williams 2), ELON 14 (A. Hamilton 5); Total Fouls -- UNCG 27, ELON 22; Fouled Out: UNCG-None; ELON-None.