Despite a 2-14 start to a season destined to tear most teams apart, three of Elon University men’s basketball key players were standing tall. 

Sophomore center Sam Sherry said he could feel team togetherness as Elon began the game. Sherry won the game’s opening tip, and the Phoenix started to fire on all cylinders to begin the first 20 minutes of play. 

“We came out the gate with a lot of confidence and that translated to us getting off to a hot start early in the first half,” Sherry said. “A lot of guys were able to get to their spots, and the offense was clicking for us. Guys were shooting the lights out of the ball, and I saw the confidence in everybody's eyes. If we can carry that confidence we started tonight into our next game, I know we have a chance to win.”

Nine Elon players touched the hardwood in the opening 20 minutes, the most in any game so far this season. Graduate student guard Sean Halloran shared the love, setting up seven different teammates for baskets in the first half. 

For the first time in a long time, the Phoenix played a healthy, complete roster, something head coach Billy Taylor has wished for since early November. He said it was the best half of basketball this team has played all season.

 “I was really pleased with the way this team played the first twenty minutes of this game,” Taylor said. “The offense was clicking. A lot of different guys got good touches. We played with confidence.”

The Phoenix started the game on a 7-2 run and had the edge over the Aggies of North Carolina A&T State University the entire first half. For the first time all season, the Phoenix survived a first half against a Division I opponent without trailing after 20 minutes. Holding the Aggies to only 39 points, Elon took a seven point lead to end the half. 

North Carolina A&T struck back in the second half. The Aggies’ halftime adjustments allowed them to take the lead early, and they held onto it for a majority of the second. 

While a second half slump from the field was too much for Elon to overcome, the Phoenix will look to build upon the momentum it forged throughout the first half.With 14 games left in the regular season, Elon has the opportunity to flip the script of how the season finishes. 

The game concluded with a final score of 80-71 in A&T’s favor. Despite the loss, graduate student guard Torrence Watson, who finished with a team-high 15 points, said Elon has not given up its fighting spirit.

“There’s going to be tough times. We’re going through a tough time right now. But I know we can get through it,” Watson said. “We want to win. It’s tough to lose on all of us. It’s my job to keep this team positive, especially the young guys. It’s my job to let the younger guys know that there are going to be tough times, but you have got to fight through it. You never know when you’re going to get your next win. And right now, we’re looking for that next win. We want it bad. And I know it’s coming soon.”

With the loss, Elon has now lost 16 consecutive games against Division I opponents, with the last win coming in the team’s regular season finale last season. 

The Phoenix will take on the Colonial Athletic Association’s best this weekend as the team looks to build upon the momentum forged against the Aggies. Elon will travel to face the College of Charleston Cougars on Jan. 14, who is ranked No. 22 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Cougars currently sit at the top of the CAA regular season standings, clocking in with an all-time program best 16-1 start. The Phoenix will get only one day off after facing Charleston before taking on the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks away Jan. 16, who had their 13-game winning streak snapped tonight by the Cougars. 

As for how this team will prepare for their toughest road trip to date, Taylor said wants the Phoenix to stay hungry for its next win.

“Our guys will be locked in. They always are. It’s the same mindset everytime we step on the court. For us, it’s a matter of can we execute, and can we do it over the course of forty minutes,” Taylor said. “We’ve played really good basketball for stretches a lot this year, but we’ve got to find a way to do it for the full game. There’s no doubt we’ve had to weather the storm the past couple weeks, but our guys are learning. And I know that when all is said and done this will help build this team's character for the better.”