Elon refused to relinquish its lead in the second half despite South Carolina's effort to change the complexion of Tuesday night's game.
The result was a breakthrough victory for the Southern Conference school.
Lucas Troutman scored 16 points and Austin Hamilton added 12 as Elon held off South Carolina 58-53.
''I'm glad we didn't have to experience what it would be like if they did take the lead,'' Elon coach Matt Matheny said. ''We played well enough defensively to win the game.''
The Phoenix (1-1) never trailed in the second half as Elon upended the first power-conference team to visit Alumni Gym, its on-campus facility.
It took the Gamecocks (1-1) more than 15 minutes to take their only lead and that edge lasted just one possession. South Carolina missed all 12 of its first-half 3-point shots.
South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said perimeter shooting was ''an area that we think is going to be a strength for us this year.''
Anthony Gill and Malik Cooke scored nine points apiece for the Gamecocks, who shot 31.3 percent from the field (20 of 64).
''We were able to get up in them on defense,'' Troutman said.
Elon led 34-23 at halftime after Brett Ervin's third 3-pointer.
''We needed a run late in the half because I thought we had played pretty good,'' Matheny said.
South Carolina closed to within one point twice in the second half, the final time at 45-44 with 8:55 remaining.
''I thought it would have changed things for both teams (if we could have gone ahead),'' Horn said. ''Credit them; they made some big shots when they had them.''
Hamilton, a freshman guard, made his first career start. He filled in for Jack Isenbarger, who missed the game with a shoulder injury suffered in Elon's opener Friday night at Massachusetts.
''Getting a win like that is incredible,'' Hamilton said. ''I'm glad I'm here.''