The Elon University’s men’s basketball team defeated William & Mary at home for its fourth win in the last five games with a score of 66-55. Both teams, dealing with injuries this deep into the season, did not have their original starting lineups.
The Phoenix opened the contest in a full court press as it has all season, attempting to fluster the William & Mary offense and passing. The team found success in doing so, forcing a quick shot clock violation and bad pass turnover, allowing Elon to capitalize in transition, immediately jumping up 5-0. William & Mary continued to struggle against the press, but five early turnovers from the Phoenix kept the Tribe in it. Trailing 14-10, head coach Billy Taylor called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, both teams traded buckets, with sophomore forward Sam Sherry and freshman guard Max Mackinnon leading the charge. Down two, Mackinnon stripped William & Mary’s sophomore guard Tyler Rice, pushing a three-on-one fast break, eventually dishing a no-look dime to graduate student guard Sean Hallaron for the tie. Mackinnon sank a smooth turnaround jumper, followed by two and-ones from Sherry.
Taylor praised the young core and said he was pleased with the way Sherry and Mackinnon have been performing recently.
“Max as a freshman, his contributions, he really stepped up for us when we needed him to make plays,” Taylor said. “Sam as a sophomore is a really talented big in our league. He’s had flashes where he's shown he can score the ball in the paint, he can rim protect and he will become a better rebounder.”
In an effort to find offense, William & Mary began feeding its senior guard Miguel Ayesa, who is shooting three at a 46% clip this season, second best in the Colonial Athletic Association. Ayesa, living up to the stats, drained three straight threes, keeping the Tribe neck and neck with the Phoenix.
Halloran responded by hitting a deep three off of an offensive rebound, cutting the lead to only one at 26-25. Mackinnon, sensing opportunity, rattled off seven straight points in the last two minutes of the first half, bringing his total to 14 at halftime and giving Elon a three-point lead.
“I’m getting more confident every day. I trust my work and I was feeling confident”, Mackinnon said.
The Phoenix continued its momentum out of halftime, locking down defensively and taking advantage on the other end. Mackinnon and Sherry both beat their defenders for a layup each, then forced a shot late in the clock from William & Mary and found graduate student guard Torrence Watson wide open on the wing in transition to take an eight point lead.
Even though it trailed, William & Mary kept the pressure on Elon, cutting into the deficit multiple times. In Elon’s previous game against North Carolina A&T, the late-game situation was almost identical, and the Phoenix ended up dropping the game 66-61.
“I definitely feel good about that stretch keeping the lead,” Taylor said. “Proud of our guys for stepping up, and Sean made some big ones to close it out.”
Elon defended the lead, scoring timely buckets on the way to a 66-55 victory. The game is the first of a three game homestand, with Hampton University on deck at 9 p.m.Monday, Feb. 13, streaming on CBS Sports Network. The Phoenix aim to win its fifth game of the last six, a stretch the team needed after a 2-19 start.
“It's been a blast,” Sherry said. “I mean we’ve come so far. To win our last few games has been super fun and I get to do it with the best guys in the world.”