The Elon University men’s basketball team made history and along the way defeated Warren Wilson 127-56, on Nov. 30 at the Schar Center.
It was apparent from the tip-off that Division III opponent Warren Wilson was outmatched. Elon started the game 8-0 thanks to a hot six-point and four rebound start for junior Sam Sherry. Shortly after, Elon went on another 8-0 run. A few minutes later, the Phoenix went on a 7-0 run. It was scoring run after scoring run, Elon had a permanent hot hand.
Elon dominated the paint early, and utilized the opportunities that their size advantage — the tallest player for Warren Wilson is 6-foot-5 and Elon has 5 players over 6-foot-5 — offered. This physicality advantage was apparent in the difference in rebounds. They outrebounded Warren Wilson 36-13 in the first half. At the end of the game, Elon had a whopping 90 points in the paint. It was simple: Elon was the bigger team.
Sherry and sophomore Deandre Smart were key contributors in the paint, scoring 12 and 14 points, respectively.
“The guards did a great job of finding us today. They were unselfish and got us the ball,” Sherry said.
The Owls offense didn’t make things any better for themselves. Warren Wilson relied heavily on the three pointer from the start to try and climb out of the hole they found themselves in, but only shot 2-18 from the three-point line in the first half. The Owls had an abysmal 25% first half field goal percentage.
The Phoenix overwhelmed them in the first half in almost every aspect of the game. Elon scored 67 in the first half, the most points in a half for the program since 2013.
Additionally, they only allowed Warren Wilson to score 22, the least amount of points allowed in a half to an opponent so far this season. Though head coach Billy Taylor thinks there is still room for improvement on the defense, such as doing a better job of recognizing where shooters are driving, he thought that today was a sign of growth.
“We were really active in the gaps, creating deflections and steals, which is good,” Taylor said.
The second half didn’t start any better for Warren Wilson. It began with a monstrous dunk by Simpkins, that helped set the precedent for the remainder of the game.
By midway into the second half, all Elon starters had reached double figures in points. But among all of the points, Sophomore Max Mackinnon shined. Mackinnon notched his first double double of the season, scoring 12 points and 10 rebounds.
With around 8 ½ minutes left in the game, the Phoenix reached the century mark. Around the five-minute mark, Elon found themselves with the biggest lead of the game — 65 points — and began to take out their starters and usual contributors. As a result, sophomore Otto Luessenhop scored his first points of the season off a jumper. In fact, every single person who came into the game scored.
“I love seeing those guys. It's kind of like a share the wealth kind of game,” Sherry said.
The ‘share the wealth’ concept applied to playing time, too. No one got over 19 minutes of playing time. Taylor said that it was important to not have their guys play too many minutes because of the burden of playing the current stretch of 3 games in six days.
For a game that seemed over from the tip-off, it was unexpected that it came down to the wire in a way. As the game progressed, it became clear that a number of records could be broken. Once the game reached the final minute, it was clear that it was going to be extremely close and would come down to the final bucket. It certainly did.
With less than 20 seconds remaining on the clock, freshman Ned Hull drove into the paint and scored a historic and monumental layup. That layup broke multiple single-game records. With it, Elon had scored the most points in a single game in program history, along with the most field goals made: 52. Additionally, Elon had the largest margin of victory in program history, with a margin of 71 points. The Phoenix also tied for third-most rebounds in program history with 58.
Taylor saw this as a game that allowed the Phoenix to hone in on certain features of their game.
“Tonight was really about us, and just trying to get better and trying to work on some of the details,” Taylor said.
One aspect of their game that Elon did not improve in this game was their three-point shooting. Elon had a pitiful performance beyond the arc, going 4-23; However, this is an anomaly compared to the rest of the season and Sherry isn’t worried about future shooting woes.
“We know what these guys can do. Most of our points were in the paint and we can always have a good shooting night, but that wasn’t tonight,” Sherry said.
Taylor also said he was proud of his guys using the opportunity to show some growth as they head into a two-game road stretch.
“There's all kinds of upsets so you can never take it for granted and come out and play the right way,” Taylor said. “I thought our guys really did that and took the opportunity to get better today.”
With the win, Elon has improved to 5-3 in the season — and 3-0 at home. The Phoenix will next play at Radford at 2 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the Dedmon Center.