ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Junior Willis Hall scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to propel the third-seeded College of Charleston men's basketball team to a 68-60 win over the second-seeded Elon Phoenix (21-11) and into the championship game of the 2013 Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championship at the U.S. Cellular Center. The Cougars (24-9) meet top-seeded Davidson in the title tilt Monday evening at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN2.
Andrew Lawrence led the Cougars in scoring with 19 points. Elon's Lucas Troutman led all scorers with 23 points, while Josh Bonney came off the bench to chip in 15 points in 15 minutes played.
The Cougars came out of the gate strong in both halves, a Lawrence 3-pointer starting an 8-2 burst in the final period to give CofC a 33-21 lead. Elon continued to feed Troutman to generate offense, whittling the lead to five, 36-31, on Troutman's slam at 14:52.
Charleston held the Phoenix without a field goal for nearly three minutes in pushing the lead to 12 at 44-32 on a 3-pointer from Anthony Thomas. In what would become the game's theme, Elon battled back but just could not get over the hump.
Bonney made it a two-point game, 46-44, with 7:09 to go. After a Bonney miss to tie the game, Hall went on his own personal run. He scored seven straight to give his Cougars breathing room as the game entered the final five minutes.
Elon cut the lead to four on four occasions, but CofC was stoic at the free throw line. It made all eight of its free throw attempts in the final minute, the last six coming from Lawrence's hand for the eight-point win.
The Cougars shot 82.3 percent from the free throw line for the contest, going 19-for-23. They also managed to shoot 45.7 percent from the field, including 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
The Phoenix struggled shooting the basketball. It shot 39.6 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from beyond the arc and an uncharacteristic 62.5 percent (15-for-24) from the charity stripe.
College of Charleston got off to a quick start, nailing three straight from long range en route to an 11-0 lead before the first media timeout. Following a Phoenix timeout, a Troutman dunk finally put Elon on the board at 15:06.
The Cougars capitalized on a poor shooting performance by the Phoenix - a Elon shot 29.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes - and took advantage of its size under the basket. CofC pushed its lead to 23-10 after back-to-back buckets from Hall and several makes from the free-throw line.
A few Troutman buckets and a triple from Bonney trimmed the Cougars' lead to 23-19 with 44 seconds on the clock. With the seconds ticking down in the half, Lawrence dumped in a final basket to send CofC to the locker room with a six-point edge.