After dealing with various challenges in two weeks since landing a national ranking, No. 22 Charleston will face struggling Elon on Saturday at Charleston, S.C.
The Cougars (17-1, 5-0 Colonial Athletic Association) have the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games.
And the run into national prominence has been backed enthusiastically by the fan base. The energy during last weekend’s game against Delaware was a prime example, and more of the same is expected for Elon.
“A Top 25 crowd,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said after a 75-64 victory over Delaware. “The city has stepped up. The place was absolutely electric. It was big.”
The team’s 17-1 record is the best start in CAA men’s basketball history, topping former member Richmond’s 16-1 mark in 1985-86.
The Cougars have a balanced offensive attack with five players scoring in double figures. Dalton Bolon leads the pack at 13.1 points per game, followed by Ryan Larson (11.2). Ante Brzovic contributes 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Charleston won at North Carolina A&T on Jan. 4 in its first game as a ranked team in two decades. The Cougars toppled reigning CAA champion Delaware before surviving a 71-69 decision Wednesday at UNC Wilmington, which had the country’s second-longest winning streak at 13 games.
The Cougars withstood a stretch of 1-for-20 shooting from the field in the second half to pull out the most recent victory. Two of the last four games have resulted in two-point victories for Charleston.
Elon (2-15, 0-4) has gone more than a month since winning a game.
The Phoenix haven’t defeated a Division I opponent in coach Billy Taylor’s first season and are on a seven-game losing streak. The Phoenix failed to protect a 14-point lead in Wednesday night’s 80-71 loss to North Carolina A&T.
Yet there’s optimism remains as more players return to the lineup.
“You never know when we’re going to get that next win,” Elon swingman Torrence Watson said. “We’ve seen the potential that we have. We just have to go get it.”
Forward Jerald Gillens-Butler, a transfer from Butler, made his first start of the season Wednesday night as he works back from an injury. Max Mackinnon also was in action after missing a game with a lower-body injury.
Elon was outrebounded 49-34 against North Carolina A&T.
Taylor hopes the Phoenix can draw from some of the positives, although taking on the Cougars will be no small task.
“It will be a great challenge for us,” Taylor said. “Our guys will be locked into the game plan like they always are. It’s just a matter if we can execute.”
This is a two-game trip for Elon, which visits UNC Wilmington on Monday for a rematch.
“That’s one of the great things about our league,” Taylor said. “The programs are really tough, really physical and well-coached, disciplined teams. That’s what we have to build toward. It’s going to take time.”
–Field Level Media