WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Elon University men’s basketball team faced off against the William & Mary Tribe in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament Saturday, and were defeated 73-51 to conclude Elon’s 2022-23 season — the first of head coach Billy Taylor’s era.
Before the game, freshman guard Max Mackinnon and senior guard Zac Ervin, who were recently named the conference’s Rookie of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year awards respectively, were honored by CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio. Mackinnon, whose confidence is a main attribute of his game, only attempted four shots and only made one layup.
Elon, coming out in the two-three zone defensively, struggled to locate the sharpshooters of the Tribe. As a whole, William & Mary’s three-point shooting accounted for 42 of the team’s 73 points, tied for second in CAA tournament history. William & Mary senior guard Miguel Ayesa, who saw recent success against Elon in their matchup Feb. 23 sinking five three pointers, had an even better day this time around. Ayesa’s seven threes tied a tournament record and propelled the William & Mary offense single-handedly.
Postgame, William & Mary head coach Dane Fischer emphasized the effectiveness of their offense against the two-three zone that has become synonymous with Elon basketball this season.
“Offensively, we felt like we had a really good rhythm all day,” Fischer said. “Got the ball where we wanted to against the zone and felt like we were getting really good looks.”
Elon, unable to defend the three-point barrage, weathered the storm throughout the first half. For every run William & Mary made, Elon fought and stayed within striking distance, closing the lead to five less three separate times in the latter half of the first 20 minutes. A buzzer beating jumper from the Tribe made the lead seven at halftime, 34-27.
The second half was much less memorable for Elon. The attention drawn to Ayesa allowed other players to shine beyond the arc, such as William & Mary sophomore guards Matteus Case and Tyler Rice, who shot a combined four for seven from deep. Before Taylor could blink, his team was staring at a 20 point deficit, 69-49.
Elon was unable to bounce back, and ultimately lost 73-51. Elon’s defeat concludes the season, but Taylor said it does not take away from the fight the team has shown over the past four months.
“Proud of our guys for how we fought this entire season,” Taylor said. “It’s been a season of ups and downs and twists and turns for us, I’m just proud of these guys. Regardless of the outcome they fought for us every single day and I’m proud to see them in an Elon uniform.”
Sophomore forward Sam Sherry gave all he could in an impressive performance, pouring in 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks — his first double-double of his career. Sherry also took a strong elbow to the head late in the second half, deemed a flagrant and continued playing, proving the fight he had for his team.
“It hurts for sure,” Sherry said. “This was a big game for us. But young guys can learn from this situation, I learned from it freshman year being in the same situation. I think we’re gonna be great next year. I’m glad I got to fight with our seniors, go through all the struggles with them, and I’m proud of every single one of us.”
In his first year as head coach of the Phoenix, Taylor led the team to a 6-12 CAA record and No. 9 seed in the tournament. The development of young players played a large role in the season, allowing underclassmen Mackinnon, Sherry and freshman guard LA Pratt to gain valuable experience. The Phoenix look to build on its promising future next fall.