Georgia Southern out-scored Elon 11-3 during the game’s final five minutes.
It was almost enough.
Elon built an early 15-point, second-half lead and held off GSU’s run as the Phoenix won, 55-50, Wednesday at Hanner Fieldhouse in the Southern Conference opener for both teams.
The Eagles (2-4, 0-1 SoCon) shot just 19 of 48 from the floor
"The last six minutes we played energy and we got better results," said GSU coach Charlton Young. "We’ve got to find a way to get over it when the ball doesn’t go in the basket — when we hit scoring lulls, not hanging our head. When you hold a team to 55 points, you’re supposed to win."
A pair of free throws by Jack Isenbarger put Elon ahead by five with seven seconds remaining to put the final nail in the win.
Elon (5-2, 1-0) was led in scoring by Lucas Troutman, who finished with 16 points.
Early in the second half, the Eagles (2-4, 0-1) trailed by three points, but went on a scoring drought for more than half of the second period, and that turned out to be the difference in the game.
Isenberger opened the second half with a 3, and a pair of Troutman free throws gave the Phoenix a 37-26 lead with 17:20 remaining in the game.
Eric Ferguson hit a pair of free throws and sparked a mini run, grabbing a rebound on the other end and dishing it to Tre Bussey for a 3.
After an Elon turnover, Ferguson dished it to C.J. Reed for another 3 that cut the Phoenix lead to 37-34.
Despite shooting 3 of 13 from the floor, Ferguson squeezed out a double-double, with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Eagles missed each of their next 14 shots as the Phoenix took off on a 12-0 run that featured 3s by Austin Hamilton and Sebastian Koch.
"We didn’t play with energy at all. It was like midway through the second half, we just died," said Bussey, who led GSU’s scoring with 16 points. "We’ve just got to keep playing with effort. Even when shots aren’t going in, just keep playing with effort."
The Eagles didn’t score again until 5:18 remained in the game and Cameron Baskerville rebounded a missed dunk by Ferguson, then found Bussey who scored under the basket to make it 49-36
The final run was sparked by a Ferguson 3 — his first of the season — after unanswered buckets by Ferguson and Bussey.
Reed hit another GSU 3 to cut it to 53-48, and a Marvin Baynham and Ferguson each made 1 of 2 from the charity stripe to close it to 53-50.
Elon led most of the first half, too.
Bussey tied the score at 10-10 with 12:42 remaining in the half, but the Phoenix exploded on a 16-7 run that saw the Phoenix pull ahead 26-17. Nine was the largest Elon lead.
Jessie Permell stopped the bleeding with 4:30 remaining before halftime when — with the shot clock buzzing — he drained a 3 to cut it to six.
Reed (13 points) scored the Eagles’ first five points of the game, opening the scoring with a 3, the Eagles’ only first-half lead. He later knotted it at 5 with a basket, but was shut out over the final 16 minutes of the half.
Elon out-rebounded GSU, 53-29.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.