WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2009 // Page 23
Busting the bracket: Men’s basketball team looks to rebound this week
Angie Lovelace | Staff Photographer
Guard Brett James shoots over an Appalachian State defender in a 77-63 loss earlier this season. James scored 8 points in that conference game.
With two key games coming up this week, the Elon men’s basketball team is focusing on finishing the season strong. On Thursday night, the Phoenix hosts Western Carolina in a Southern Conference matchup. Then the team travels to UNC Wilmington to play in a BracketBuster game Saturday night. “We’re trying to get refocused as we begin this last push,” Elon head coach Ernie Nestor said. The Phoenix is coming off back-to-back losses against UT Chattanooga and Samford. The team is 8-16 overall and 5-11 in the Southern Conference. “We just have to get back to being a better team. It’s a combination of offense and defense and executing. We did not shoot the ball well,” Nestor said. Elon has five regular season games remaining before the Southern Conference tournament begins March 6 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Phoenix faces Western Carolina on Thursday night and then travel to UNC W on Saturday night for the ESPN BracketBuster game. “When you get that team a second time around at home, it’s definitely an advantage,” senior forward Monty Sanders said. In the previous meeting this season with Western Carolina on Jan. 10, the Phoenix lost 74-67. Currently, Western Carolina sits at second place in the Southern Conference’s North Division behind UT Chattanooga. On Saturday, Elon travels to UNC W for an outof-conference ESPN BracketBuster game. In the midst of a challenging conference schedule, a nonconference game will be able to relieve some stress. “Every game matters, but it’s not a conference game, it’s not as stressful,” Sanders said. UNC W is in the Colonial Athletic Association and has made four NCAA tournament appearances since 2002. Nestor said the team will focus on UNC W on Friday and a little bit Saturday morning before the game. In Thursday's game against Western Carolina,
Elon hopes to improve its recent shooting woes that have been a problem in the past two games, as well as a consistant issue throughout the season. In the game against Samford, Elon was held to 47 total points. This tied the team’s lowest point total for the season. In the opening game against West Virginia, Elon was also held to 47 points. “You can’t shoot at the level we’re shooting the basketball and expect to be successful,” Nestor said. “We have to make more shots to give ourselves a fighting chance.” Elon is in the midst of a four-day layoff before its next game Thursday night. This break will provide much needed rest for the team. “It’s a long season,” Nestor said. “We’ve played 24 games so far and have a lot of games on a lot of guys so far. It gives them a chance to renew themselves.” Out of the team’s next five games, three of them are at home. The Phoenix only had six wins on the season at the Nest. Nestor said the team must improve on winning at home. The team lost its last two games going into Thursday night’s matchup, but it is focusing on finishing the season strong. “We haven’t been able to close out games or sustain leads,” junior forward Adam Constantine said. “We just have to play 40 minutes of basketball.”
WHAT IS A BRACKETBUSTER GAME? BracketBuster games pit NCAA Tournament hopefuls against one another. There are 13 nationally televised games during the season. This season, the games take place Feb. 20 and 21. The 51 games include 102 teams from 17 conferences.
Pam Richter Sports Editor