In the wildest game of the Elon University men’s basketball season, sophomore forward Tyler Seibring’s jumper at the buzzer couldn’t fall a second time, as the Phoenix lost to Northeastern University 105-104 in double overtime Thursday night.
With 2.2 seconds left, Seibring — who sent the game to overtime by making a similar shot on a similar play — caught sophomore guard Dainan Swoope’s inbound pass, pump-faked, and bumped into senior guard/forward Jimmy Marshall, but missed the shot, leaving Elon listening for a whistle that never came.
“It was similar,” said Elon head coach Matt Matheny. “Did he get fouled? Did he not get fouled? You can point to a lot of things we could have done defensively to not be in that situation. I thought we got a pretty good look.”
Seibring added, “We had a lot of actions and different options on that last play, as is the way with our team. Swoope got it to me there and it didn’t go down this time.”
For the short-handed Northeastern — who only had seven players at Alumni Gym on the night — freshman guard Bolden Brace dropped 28 points in the first half en route to a 40-point night, the most points scored by a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) player this season.
It’s also just the third 40-point game in Northeastern history, only one point behind the school record 41 from Reggie Lewis and J.J. Barea, who both went on to play in the NBA.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Brace said. “When you see the ball go through the basket that many times in one game, there’s no feeling like it.”
Northeastern head coach Bill Coen chimed in and added, “And we needed every one of them.”
Northeastern led for most of the second overtime, but two free throws from senior guard Luke Eddy put Elon up one with 19 seconds left. Eddy then fouled senior guard T.J. Williams with seven seconds left. Williams made both free throws, and Eddy raced down the court but got a layup blocked out of bounds with 2.2 left.
“Great game. Really, you won’t find a better, more exciting college basketball game anywhere in the country,” Matheny said. “For some of the plays these guys made to get us back in the game, to put it into overtime, or the second overtime, incredible. Just a great college basketball game that didn’t finish the way we wanted it to.”
Elon forced overtime when an inbound play with 3.1 seconds left went to Seibring, who took two dribbles and hit a turnaround fadewawy at the buzzer to tie the game at 81. He set a career-high with 30 points on the night.
The teams went back-and-forth during overtime, but a missed Northeastern free throw that would’ve put the Huskies up four with 17 seconds left led to a lightning-quick transition 3-pointer from Swoope in front of Elon’s bench to tie the game.
Elon got the ball back with a steal with five seconds left, but redshirt junior forward Brian Dawkins’ jumper at the buzzer rimmed out and sent the game to a second overtime.
Brace played all 50 minutes for the Huskies, noticeably tiring down as the game wore on into the overtime periods. Despite battling exhaustion, the Santa Barbara, California native wouldn’t trade this game for anything.
“To be honest, I’ve never cramped before in a basketball game — that was a first for me,” Brace said. “I can’t even think what to say, I’m so gassed right now. That was probably one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in my life.”
Northeastern also got a triple-double the conference’s leading-scorer Williams, who contributed 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Coen felt immense satisfaction from the efforts of the victorious seven.
“Given the circumstances and the numbers, that was as good a win to cobble together that I’ve been associated with,” Coen said. “We’ve had other really strong wins and satisfying wins, but given the circumstances and the ways guys stepped up and in different roles, and in a very difficult place against a team playing as well as anyone in the CAA, I just couldn’t be prouder of that group in the locker room.”
Despite Brace’s 28-point opening half, Elon led 45-43 at the break thanks to sophomore guard Steven Santa Ana’s 16 points and Seibring’s 15. Santa Ana finished with 18 points.
Elon got a huge lift from sophomore guard Dmitri Thompson in the second half and overtime, scoring 19 of his career-high 23 points after halftime while also helping slow down Brace. Thompson said he has never played against someone as hot as Brace was in the first half.
“Honestly, no,” Thompson said. “It happens — it’s a great league with a bunch of great players. You just have to play around it. Obviously, you want to stop him, but everything he throws up was going in, so we just have to keep playing solid defense and not risk gambling. Try to make him miss, but hope that he misses. He … he wasn’t missing. It was very hard to guard.”
Despite the totals, Matheny felt Elon’s defensive effort was in tune with what the Phoenix had been doing recently, with one noticeable exception.
“This defensive performance, in a lot of ways, is similar to the way we’ve been playing,” Matheny said. “We’ve been leading the conference in field-goal percentage defense, except this team made these shots. Yes, they got too many comfortable looks, but we’re not that far off.”
The Phoenix drops to 17-13 on the season and 9-8 in the CAA. Elon remains tied for fourth in the conference with one regular season game to go, Saturday night’s 7 p.m. Senior Night against the University of Delaware. Despite the loss, Thompson left Alumni Gym feeling encouraged and ready to play again.
“It was a lot of fun. It was exciting,” Thompson said. “We’re a band of brothers, and I just love playing with these guys more than anything in the world. I just can’t wait to play in March in the tournament and see how far we can go.”