Elon University men’s basketball team with a balanced scoring attack beat William & Mary 76-71 on Feb. 29 in Schar Center. With a potent offense and tough defense down the stretch, Elon eventually prevailed over William & Mary despite trailing for the majority of the game. Winning their penultimate game of the season boosted their record to 13-17. 

Elon had four players finish the game in double figures, with freshman Nick Dorn, sophomores Max Mackinnon and TK Simpkins and junior Sam Sherry all scoring above 10 points. Simpkins’ 18 points — along with his eight rebounds — were both team highs for Elon. 

William & Mary, who has been plagued with injuries all year, looked poised to break their eight-game losing streak. They had an offensive barrage in the first half, scoring 42 points propelled by strong 3-point shooting. The Tribe started the game 5-9 from beyond the arc and scored 21 first half points from the 3-point line, aided by the work of the Dorsey brothers. Juniors Caleb and Gabe Dorsey scored a combined 24 points in the first half, along with six 3-pointers. 

The Tribe took advantage of a lackluster Phoenix defense and picked its vulnerabilities apart with precision early and often as they got off to a redhot start — thanks to three 3-pointers within the first four and a half minutes of the half. 

Elon would also find its rhythm on offense, thanks to Dorn’s electric efforts, scoring 14 first-half points with 12 of those coming from the 3-point line.

Head coach Billy Taylor said that Dorn always has an opportunity to score points for the Phoenix. 

“Nick has always got the green light to shoot it, and if he’s got a clean look, we want him to shoot it,” Taylor said.

Dorn’s scoring was complemented by Elon’s success in the paint as 16 of their 39 first-half points came in the paint. 

But Elon’s defensive struggles kept them trailing for most of the first half until a block by sophomore Deandre Smart, which kickstarted a 10-2 run over the final minutes of the half. The Phoenix managed to tie the game with four seconds left in the half.

Yet, this lasted for about three seconds as a 3-pointer by G. Dorsey at the buzzer gave William & Mary a 42-39 lead heading into halftime. 

As the second half got underway, both offenses struggled to replicate their first half success — scoring just one basket through the first three minutes.

The Phoenix tied the game again at 49-49 following a 8-1 run led by Simpkins, who was in attack mode during the second half. He scored nine points in the first 10 minutes of the second half as Elon reached 50% from the field in that span.

Simpkins attributed his second half success to a determination to score in the paint. 

“Just going downhill opened up more opportunities for me and my teammates,” Simpkins said.

Finally Elon took the lead off a 3-pointer by Mackinnon. But it was short lived as Tribe freshman Tai Hamilton responded with a 3-pointer to put William & Mary up by two. Both teams then proceeded to trade the lead for the next five minutes before a beautiful spin move by Sam Sherry that led to his first points of the half. 

Free throws were a major issue for the Tribe in the second half, going 0-6 from the line in the second half. They were also outrebounded 36 to 29.

A key contributor to the Phoenix’s second half performance was their pivot to a man-to-man defense, abandoning the vulnerable zone defense that allowed 42 points in the first half. Taylor said that they decided to switch to man at halftime and see where it led. 

“We stayed with it and it was a defense that was working for us and had good energy,” Taylor said. “Kind of allowed us to keep a better track on Dorsey and some other guys."

Elon started to pull away in the final minutes as their stout defense got it together and forced a four-minute scoring drought, along with extending the lead to five going into the final two minutes of the game.  This drought included shutting down G. Dorsey completely in the final 12 minutes where he wouldn’t score a point in that span. 

But William & Mary found their offense and scored back-to-back layups to cut the lead down to one with a minute left.

However, Elon forced a miss from C. Dorsey, and put the game away off two pairs of free throws from Mackinnon.

Taylor said he was proud of how the team remained focused throughout the game with its ups and downs. 

“There's still a lot at stake and we are trying to play well going into the CAA tournament, so we knew they would compete, and we knew we just had to continue to play the game,” Taylor said. “Sometimes you can get a little sideways, you get down, and I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their head.”

The win clinched Elon’s first winning record at the Schar Center. Simpkins said that this accomplishment means a lot for the program. 

“We’re taking a big step with the program. I feel like we are going in the right direction, and we just got to keep working,” Simpkins said.

Elon’s next game will be Senior Day at 1 p.m. on March 2  against Monmouth University at the Schar Center. It will be their final regular season contest before traveling to Washington D.C. where they will compete in the CAA Tournament starting March 8.