Last season, the Elon University men’s basketball team snapped the University of North Carolina Wilimington’s 12-game winning streak in a thrilling game at Schar Center. Tonight, with UNCW entering on a run of 11 consecutive victories, Elon could not replicate its past magic, falling 81-66.
Elon kept the game close throughout the first half but the Seahawks pulled away in the second, going ahead by as many as 20. The Phoenix trailed by double-digits the final 13:01 of the game.
After a promising pair of road games against Drexel University and the University of Delaware last week, head coach Billy Taylor said he was disappointed with the team’s execution against UNCW.
“We felt like we were really going the right direction the way we were playing on the road,” Taylor said. “We didn’t quite execute the way we wanted tonight. It showed up in a couple different ways with the 11 turnovers in the first half. We were efficient shooting the basketball but we weren't getting enough field goal attempts. And then the offensive rebounds, first half and second half, you know, just not being quick to the ball and not being alert and playing with the activity necessary to beat a really good team.”
Elon shot 50% on field goals for the game compared to UNCW’s 46%, but the Seahawks attempted 19 more shots than the Phoenix, in large part due to their 16-3 advantage in offensive rebounds. Elon also finished the game with 13 turnovers.
Senior guard Zac Ervin scored a team-high 16 points. He made seven of 11 shots, including two from three-point range. Ervin said UNCW’s athleticism and defensive pressure forced Elon to make poor decisions with the basketball.
“We were playing crazy. We weren’t executing our stuff. We weren’t being solid with the basketball, playing off two feet,” Ervin said. “We were making crazy decisions, crazy passes, crazy plays. You can’t do that.”
Elon only had eight players available for the game, as the team continues to struggle with injuries. Freshman guard Max Mackinnon, who had started Elon’s previous 11 games, was out tonight with what Taylor described as a lower leg injury. Junior guard JaDun Michael made his first start since Nov. 17 in place of Mackinnon. With limited depth, Taylor said it is difficult for the Phoenix to maximize its potential.
“At this point of the year, everybody's banged up a little bit,” Taylor said. “We’ve just been dealing with a lot of injuries. We try to have the next man up mentality. We don’t have many men left. They’re fighting hard.”
Despite trailing by as many as 20 in the second half, Elon went on scoring runs to keep the game competitive, trimming the deficit to as few as 12 with just over three minutes remaining. Ervin said the team took better care of the basketball in the second half, which led to more consistent play on offense.
“We had two turnovers in the second half, and I think that's the reason why we cut it,” Ervin said. “We did a little bit better job executing for that stretch.”
The game was Elon’s first at home since defeating Johnson & Wales University on Dec. 11. The Phoenix plays its second straight home game Jan. 11 against CAA opponent North Carolina A&T.
“It was great to be back in Schar,” Taylor said. “There’s a really terrific energy on our campus. I think there are people that want to see us do well, that want to support our guys, and that makes it fun for me as a coach and leader of our program.”
The loss drops Elon’s record to 2-14 on the season, including an 0-3 mark in Colonial Athletic Association games and a 0-14 ledger against Division I opponents. Nine of Elon’s 14 losses have been by double figures.
The CAA is off to a strong start this season, as UNCW — 12 games — and College of Charleston — 13 games — are on two of the nation’s longest three active winning streaks. Taylor said Elon hopes to build a program that can eventually have success similar to what both UNCW and College of Charleston are currently enjoying.
“That's one of the great things about our league. The teams are really good and the coaches have been around for a little bit. The programs are really tough, really physical and well coached, disciplined teams,” Taylor said. “That's what we have to build toward. It’s going to take time. I wish we could say we would be there already after 16 games, but we're not. We have a long way to go but we're going to keep working.”