Updated as of Feb. 4, 2022 1:22 a.m. to include video.
The Phoenix outscored the Seahawks by 13 points in the second half to secure a conference victory over the Seahawks — the first-place team in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“It’s a big win,” head coach Mike Schrage said. “What Wilmington has been doing is pretty incredible. They’re such a talented, dangerous team.”
Check out Schrage's press conference below.
Freshman forward Sam Sherry, who played 11 minutes and scored six points in tonight’s game, said the team did better executing late in the game than in the previous matchup between the teams, and thought the Phoenix maintained a high intensity level from start to finish.
“We just put a full 40 minutes together,” Sherry said. “In the last game … we kind of lost our momentum towards the end, but in this game we stayed locked in on defense and we were executing on offense and that was perfect.”
Watch the post-game press conference with Darius Burford and Sam Sherry below.
Elon finished the game by making 23 of its last 29 field goal attempts, a stretch that began late in the first half. Schrage said the team focused on scoring in the paint rather than taking a lot of three-point shots. With a season-high 44 points in the paint, the Phoenix found a rhythm offensively that helped propel the team to a victory.
“That’s a big step for us,” Schrage said. “Our mentality was to get in the paint whether it be driving the ball or posting different guys.”
The first half was physical and both teams struggled to hit shots. Despite seven turnovers from Elon in the half, the teams went into halftime tied, 31-31. The Phoenix’s rebound differential (22-13) and strong free throw shooting (9-10) were key for the team to stay within reach going into the second half.
Sophomore guard Darius Burford led the team with a season-high 27 points, including 17 in the second half. He scored on several contested layups to help the Phoenix build momentum and a significant lead in the second half. He made 13 of 19 shots, all of which were two-point field goals.
“I want to make sure I'm making an impact in any way possible,” Burford said. “No matter if that's defense, no matter if that's getting rebounds, no matter if that's assisting, playmaking for my team, making shots easier or scoring the ball for myself, I just want to make an impact on the game to help us win.”
Missed the game? Check out Elon News Network's coverage below.
Elon held UNC-Wilmington to just 34% from the field — Elon shot 60% — and had four steals in the second half. Schrage said he was pleased with the defensive effort and hopes the Phoenix can continue the strong defensive play down the stretch.
“Our defense was what it needs to be. We held a really potent offense down,” Schrage said. “If our opponent’s shooting percentage is under 40, that’s a real magic number for us.”
With an unofficial attendance of 2,405 people, this was the largest home crowd to ever witness an Elon victory. Schrage said the energy in Schar Center was electric and praised the student section for making an impact on the game.
“It was awesome,” Schrage said. “Our students, if they can keep showing up like that, it means the world to us. It makes a difference in the game, it makes our guys so excited.”
Elon returns to Schar Center on Saturday for another conference game against the College of Charleston Cougars. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.
With a record of 4-6 in the CAA, Elon sits in eighth place in the league standings but is just two games out of third. After winning its last four games to finish last year’s regular season, Schrage said he is hopeful the team can replicate that strong finish this season.
“Everyone wants to turn it on in March and we need to turn it on in February,” Schrage said. “That’s where you build momentum into March.”