TOWSON, Md. — In a big Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) matchup, the Elon University men’s basketball team couldn’t stop Towson University junior guard Mike Morsell and fell to the Tigers 85-66 Thursday night.
Morsell scored 32 points on the night, with 21 in the second half, to lead Towson to its 10th win in its last 11 games, a stark contrast from when the Phoenix beat the Tigers Jan. 7 to drop Towson to 0-4 in the conference.
“We played hard, but we didn’t play smart all of the time,” said head coach Matt Matheny. “In order to win a game against a team that’s playing well on their home court, not only do you have to play hard, but you’ve got to play smart and you’ve got to fight for every possession — and we didn’t do that.”
And while Elon kept it close throughout most of the first half, redshirt junior forward Brian Dawkins felt that the team wasn’t prepared for a game that, had Elon won, would’ve moved them into a tie for third with Towson.
“We just weren’t ready,” Dawkins said. “It’s a not a good excuse. With these being the home stretch and all these games counting and a big opportunity to climb into third place, it’s disappointing. We weren’t ready to play, and they came out ready and played well.”
Towson dominated the rebounding effort in the first half, turning eight offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points in the opening frame. In the end, Towson finished with 13 offensive rebounds, leaving Elon with room to improve.
“We didn’t box them out in the first half consistently, and that’s a strength of theirs,” Matheny said. “I think our players understand and respect how good of an offensive rebounding team they are. I was disappointed we had breakdowns where we didn’t box out in situations that we could’ve. We were not locked in to the scouting report at every position on every possession, and that’s a sign of us still needing to grow.”
But Elon staved off an early Towson double-digit lead thanks to sophomore forward Tyler Seibring, who shot 6-of-8 in the half — including 3-of-3 from deep — to score 15 points and help Elon take just a four-point deficit into halftime. He finished the night with 22 points.
But Elon struggled out of the gates in the second half, watching Towson balloon the lead to double digits. Elon got it down to as low as six with 9:30 left, but couldn’t break through with a big run, leaving Matheny a little dejected.
“They made some big shots, and it seems like every time we scored, they scored. That’s just hard, man," he said. "We’re on the road. We’re playing against a team that’s playing well and is good at home. You’ve got to play better than we play if you expect to win.”
Towson was able to stymie Elon’s offensive rhythm, forcing 12 turnovers — which led to 17 Towson points — and only allowing 10 assisted baskets out of 24. Seibring said Elon needs to turnaround and be ready for defenses like this going forward, especially after getting a big win over the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Feb. 11.
“There’s a lot of teams in the CAA that are extremely aggressive, but they’re a tough team,” Seibring said. “They did a good job, but it has more to do with what we need to do to overcome what they threw at us as we head into the tournament. When it comes to the tournament, you can’t just ride a high. You have to be ready to go the next time out.”
The loss drops Elon to 16-12 on the year and 8-7 in the CAA. The Phoenix heads north to Philadelphia for a 2 p.m. game Saturday at Drexel University, its final road game of the regular season.