Schar Center erupted as the Elon University men’s basketball team would go on to win 72-58 and finally snap its 11-game winless streak, picking up its first win in over a month and a half. Head coach Billy Taylor said he could not have been happier with his team.
“It has been a long journey,” Taylor said. “Our guys kept battling every day. They showed up, they prepared the right way every single day and played hard for us. To get the job done was really satisfying for me as a coach.”
Elon started out hot in the first half when graduate student guard Torrence Watson ignited the Schar Center crowd with a step-back three that gave the Phoenix an eight-point advantage. From there, the Phoenix kept the crowd on its feet and closed the first half with a 32-25 lead over the Dragons. Taylor said the support from the community had been a massive spirit boost.
“We want it to be a community thing. We want everyone to be able to embrace, enjoy and be a part of this journey for Elon basketball,” Taylor said.
Graduate student guard Jerald Gillens-Butler, who recorded 14 points and three rebounds in the win, said the team was ecstatic with the result but eager for more moments like this.
“We always want to celebrate,” Gillens-Butler said. “We are hungry for more, so we will celebrate today but tomorrow we move on.”
Gillens-Butler took over at the start of the second half with six points in the first four minutes, which extended Elon’s lead to 16. He said all that was on his mind was pulling out the win.
“It wasn’t just about me feeling good or just making the right reads,” Butler said. “I was just being who I was, trying to get us the win.”
Over the last 11 games, Gillens-Butler said it was a challenge at times to keep a level head but said the leadership from Taylor is what kept the team together.
“[Taylor’s] constantly telling us to keep going and always encouraging us,” Gillens-Butler said. “Some days, I was really down and he pulled me to the side and just uplift me. He makes it easy for us to just keep competing no matter what.”
However, in the blink of an eye, the Dragons went on a 9-0 run and were within five of the Phoenix late. Taylor said the Phoenix just tried to focus on the little things when the Dragons started to claw back.
“We needed to make sure we’re solid on defense, boxing out and taking care of the basketball,” Taylor said. “Guys did their job and we were able to win by a much larger margin.”
Immediately out of the timeout, Mackinnon scored a put-back layup to get the Phoenix headed in the right direction to close out the game. He said he felt as if a loose ball was bound to bounce his way.
“I knew I needed to keep crashing the glass because it was a long possession,” Mackinnon said. “I knew someone was going to miss a box out.”
The win is Elon’s first against a Division I opponent this season and snaps a 20-game winless streak against Division I competition, dating back to the team’s victory against Northeastern University on Feb. 26, 2022.
Mackinnon said he hopes the team can lock in for the next string of games to keep the momentum going.
“We have to keep moving,” Mackinnon said. “We have to keep building that win streak.”
Elon will go back on the road to take on the Stony Brook University Seawolves on Feb. 2nd where it will look to win back-to-back games for the first time in just under a year.