Elon coach Matt Matheny sent a message to his basketball team on Thursday night, benching 6-10 center Lucas Troutman, his top scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker and ball-stealer.
Elon snapped a five-game losing skid with a 70-55 victory over The Citadel before 1,314 fans at McAlister Field House, leaving Bulldogs coach Chuck Driesell wondering how to send a similar message to his young squad.
Coming off a solid performance in a 73-62 win over Samford, the Bulldogs looked sloppy (14 turnovers) and unfocused (37.3 percent shooting) at times while dropping to 4-12 overall and 1-4 in the Southern Conference.
That must get fixed before The Citadel ends a three-game homestand Saturday against UNC Greensboro, which snapped an 11-game losing streak with a 73-66 win at College of Charleston on Thursday.
“We’ve got to come out committed in that game,” said junior center Mike Groselle, who put up his ninth double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “We didn’t really come out focused in this game. We let Elon control the tempo and what-not, and we can’t do that against UNC Greensboro.”
Citadel guards Cosmo Morabbi, Ashton Moore and DeVontae Wright combined to miss 23 of 28 shots. Morabbi, who had made 59.1 percent of his shots over the last five games, was 1 of 7 with four turnovers, shadowed most of the night by Elon’s 6-8 Sebastian Koch.
“Either it was a bad night for our shooters, or their defense was pretty good,” said Driesell, who got 10 points from freshman forward C.J. Bray. “I’m going to give Elon credit for doing a nice job of getting to our shooters and taking that part of our game away.”
For the first time in a month, Elon scored more than 63 points and shot better than 35.9 percent. Senior guard Drew Spradlin, who averaged 4 points and shot 19.4 percent during the five-game skid, made 6 of 13 shots and scored 21 points. Troutman, who started the first 14 games, came off the bench for 10 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
“We didn’t start Lucas, and that says to him, and to our team, that we expect a lot out of him, and out of all our guys,” said Matheny, whose squad won seven of its first nine games, including a 58-53 win over South Carolina.
Elon took advantage of 10 Citadel turnovers in the first half, using a 10-2 run to open up a 27-16 lead.
Down nine with the game clock under 30 seconds, The Citadel had a chance to hold for the last shot and maybe cut the lead to six heading into the locker room. But Bo Holston missed a wide-open layup with 14 seconds left, and Elon’s Brett Ervin nailed a long trey at the buzzer for a 35-23 halftime edge.
(bullet) Elon is at College of Charleston on Saturday … The Phoenix used 12 players against The Citadel, none for more than 33 minutes … Morabbi played 37 minutes and Groselle 36 for the Bulldogs, who used nine players … Elon had a 24-10 edge in bench points, due largely to Troutman and Ervin (six).