The Elon University men’s basketball team defeated the Hampton University Pirates, 70-68 late Monday night during its Pajama Jam Night. Freshman guard Max Mackinnon’s late-game heroics rescued the Phoenix from surrendering a 17-point lead early in the second half.
The 9 p.m. tipoff aired on the CBS Sports Network. Both teams displayed an energy that picked up full court, pushing the tempo and aiming to capitalize in transition. The Hampton Pirates played fast — running past the full-court press, finding open spot-up shooters.
The Phoenix and Pirates knew what needed to be accomplished if either team was to get the win Feb. 13. Defensive intensity was imperative for Elon’s early success. Hampton’s success in transition was crucial for their offensive production.
Head coach Billy Taylor, sensing the full-court press of the Phoenix, enabled transition success for Hampton and made key adjustments, bringing back the defense to a half-court focus. Freshman guard LA Pratt, the first man off the Elon bench, immediately displayed his value, scoring seven straight points. Pratt, on top of scoring his career-high in the first half, created havoc on defense. Twice Pratt deflected a pass and leaked down the floor, resulting in two open dunks.
“Whatever the team needs,” Pratt said. “Coach Taylor gave us roles. Playing defense was one of mine.”
Elon held an 11-point advantage at intermission and wasted no time extending the lead in the first minutes of the second half. The Phoenix, flying around the court and moving the ball with ease and tempo, surged on a 9-3 run. Up 17 in the second, it seemed as if the game was won.
Hampton sank two free throws to give them a two-point lead with 12:46 on the game clock. After another miss from the Elon offense, Hampton looked to go up two scores. The ball found the hands of an open 6 feet, 7 inches tall Hampton freshman forward Kyrese Mullen three feet from the basket, who turned uncontested, sealing the game, until the right hand of 6-foot tall graduate student guard Sean Hallaron swatted Mullen’s attempt.
When Hampton missed the next jumper, Hallaron took the ball and ran, pulling out a euro step to beat his defender, putting his team down two. The Phoenix forced another miss, and ran the offense, eventually finding the newly named three-time Colonial Athletic Association rookie of the week, Mackinnon at the top of the three with the crowd at Schar Center ready to explode.
Mackinnon, who finished the night 2-4 from three, said that strengthening his three-point shooting has been an important aspect of his game.
“I've been working on it and it’s something I need to get better at,” Mackinnon said. “I’ve been working.”
Mackinnon’s shot splashed straight cotton, unleashing a roar from the crowd. Down two, Hampton had 36 seconds left to try to win the game. Hampton senior guard Russell Dean saw a lane and darted towards the cup, laying up the game-tying points, evening the score 68-68 with 11 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Phoenix inbound from the half-court quickly turned to a scramble, until Mackinnon snatched the ball and broke for the basket, drawing a foul, and two free looks at the game-winner. Mackinnon sank both to finish his team-leading 18-point performance.
The penultimate home game of the 2022-23 season marks the fifth win of the last six games for Elon, who have jumped six spots to No. 8in the CAA standings. The Phoenix will face the No. 2 College of Charleston Cougars at 7 p.m. Feb 16.