GAME NOTES: The fourth-seeded Elon Phoenix and the fifth-seeded Western Carolina Catamounts square off in the second round of the 2014 Southern Conference Tournament at U.S. Cellular Center on Saturday afternoon.
Western Carolina doesn't bring a ton of momentum into the postseason, with losses in its final two games of the regular season. The Catamounts still finished with solid marks both overall (17-14) and in league play (10-6), but they were just 6-12 away from home.
Elon is also riding a two-game slide into the tourney, having suffered recent setbacks to third-seeded Wofford and No. 1 seed Davidson. The Phoenix have a game up on the Catamounts both overall (18-13) and in conference action (11-5), but also have a losing record in games decided away from home (7-9).
Although these teams split the season series, neither contest was particularly competitive. Western Carolina collected a 74-62 win at home on Jan. 4 and Elon returned the favor with a 74-60 home victory on Jan. 30. The Phoenix has claimed victory in three of the last four meetings overall, and leads the all- time series by a 55-40 margin.
The winner of this matchup will take on either Samford or Davidson in the semifinals.
Trey Sumler scored 27 points to lead five players in double figures, but Western Carolina still fell in a 93-86 shootout to Samford in the last game of the regular season. The Catamounts allowed their hosts to sink 59.6 percent from the floor in that contest.
For the year, WCU is averaging 74.4 ppg on 42.5 percent shooting. The Catamounts are fourth in the league in scoring despite shooting the second- worst percentage from the field among all SoCon teams. Sumler (17.9 ppg, 4.4 apg) is in the driver's seat for the offense, leading the way in both scoring and assists. In fact, Sumler is at the top of the conference in assists and fifth in points per game. Lending support are Brandon Boggs (11.9 ppg) and James Sinclair (11.4 ppg). Boggs netted 11 points in the season finale, but Sinclair had only eight points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Elon also suffered from a failure at the defensive end in falling to Davidson to close out the regular season. The Phoenix allowed a 62 percent shooting effort from the Wildcats, while also suffering deficits in rebounds (31-21) and points in the paint (34-24).
The Phoenix were a bit off of their normal offensive pace against Davidson, sinking 45.1 percent from the field. On the year, they shoot at a 46.9 percent rate, yielding 75.1 ppg. Both of those marks rank the team third in the SoCon. Elon's biggest strength comes in sharing the ball, as it is at the top of the conference in assists (75.1 apg). Lucas Troutman (16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) leads the way in terms of scoring and rebounding, while Sebastian Koch (11.8 ppg) and Ryley Beaumont (10.2 ppg) also do their part. Beaumont was the leading scorer against Davidson, tallying 19 points.
Prior to its two-game skid to end the regular season, Elon had rolled to eight straight victories. Expect the Phoenix to recapture the success they had during that run en route to a berth in the semifinals.
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