WASHINGTON, D.C. — Trailing by three with the clock winding down, senior guard Luke Eddy ran the play exactly how head Elon University men’s basketball coach Matt Matheny wanted.
But he was a half-second late, not able to get sophomore guard Steven Santa Ana the ball in time for a potential game-tying 3-pointer as Elon lost to Georgetown University 77-74 Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
“We were definitely going for a three, and we were trying to create — we had a double screen off the other side," Eddy said. "I didn’t know how much time was left, but once I threw it, I saw the red lights go off and I knew it was too late.”
Eddy had an opportunity to pull up for a 3-pointer of his own with around three seconds left, but chose to race into the paint and under the basket. He flung a pass to Santa Ana at the top of the key, who caught the ball as the buzzer went off.
“We’re talking about a fraction of a second," Matheny said. "I would love for him to close his eyes and throw it from half-court and go in. I don’t care how it goes in. We’ll put the ball in his hands and create and try and get an open look from three.
"They obviously knew we were going to try to pull up from three, so the paint was wide open because they’re willing to give up the two. Luke, I would’ve loved for him to make a three, but he tried to deflate the defense as best he could. He knows the play, and we’re half a second late for the release of the shot.”
Elon came out of the gates strong in the first half, making 15-of-33 shots (45.5 percent) and building a lead as large as 10. The Phoenix never trailed, but Georgetown recovered late in the half to tie it before the break and take the lead immediately after the start of the second half.
But the Phoenix nearly pulled off a wild comeback in the final 75 seconds, cutting an eight-point deficit down to three. Matheny was impressed that the team was able to bounce back after falling behind by as much as 11 points early in the second half.
“Really proud of the fact that our guys prepared well and executed an aggressive gameplan, particularly in the first 15 minutes of the game," Matheny said. "To Georgetown’s credit, they finished the half well and started the second half very well. I thought our guys showed a good deal of maturity coming back when it could have been one that got away from us."
Redshirt junior forward Brian Dawkins led the Phoenix with 17 points and seven rebounds. Eddy added 12 points and sophomore guard Dainan Swoope pitched in 11 points. All nine players who played for Elon scored on the day, a balanced attack that impressed Georgetown head coach John Thompson III.
"They’re a very good offensive team. They’re a very, very good offensive team," Thompson said. "They’re averaging, I think, 86 points a game. I told our guys they have seven guys, six definitely, that on any given night can get 20-plus.
"They put five guys on the court that can really shoot. Not just make shots, but they have five shooters on the court. Then you start staying at home too much and it’s a cat-and-mouse game.”
Elon was able to hang with the perennial powerhouse Hoyas for the majority of the game, something that will impress onlookers going forward. For Dawkins, though, the loss will stand out most.
“I think it’s just as frustrating either way, knowing that we can be that close to win or just losing, in general," Dawkins said. "We have to build off of this and learn from it. It’s not the end of our season, we’ve got a lot of games left. It was good for us to see we can compete against a team at this level, but at the same time, we’ve just got to get better from it.”
The Phoenix’s five-game winning streak ends with the loss, dropping Elon to 6-2 on the season. Elon returns home at 7 p.m. Tuesday night for a game against the University of North Carolina at Asheville.