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Elon men hit bump before CAA Tournament

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon could muster only so much momentum going into the Coastal Athletic Association Tournament for men’s basketball.

The Phoenix dropped Saturday afternoon’s regular-season finale when a lead vanished in an 85-70 loss to Monmouth at Schar Center.

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T.K. Simpkins

That outcome sent Elon’s record to 13-18 overall and 6-12 in the CAA.

“It’s unfortunate the final score doesn’t indicate the kind of game it was,” Phoenix coach Billy Taylor said. “It was just disappointing that we just couldn’t complete the mission.”

Now attention turns to the CAA Tournament, which begins Friday at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington. Elon is the No. 11 seed with a first-round game against last place Hampton, with the winner facing sixth-seeded Delaware in Saturday night’s second round.

“It’s that time of year when everybody has got a game,” Taylor said. “You put everything you can into that game in front of you. … Play as hard as you can for that one game and see where that takes you.”

Against Monmouth (17-14, 10-8), guard T.K. Simpkins poured in 31 points, but Xander Rice, son of Monmouth coach King Rice (former North Carolina point guard), matched that with 31 points.

Elon went up 31-16 on Zac Ervin’s 3-pointer, but the Hawks came back. The loss put Elon at 8-6 in home games.

“We hope to make some noise in March,” Ervin said. “Put this game behind us and see what we can do in the tournament.”

Zac Ervin

The game was tied with less than 11 minutes left.

Simpkins, who shot 10-for-16 from the field, became the first Elon player to reach the 30-point mark in more than two years.

“It’s a shame that we couldn’t really celebrate what TK did,” Taylor said. “We should be able celebrate that.”

Elon’s Nick Dorn, who this week was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the fourth time, finished with 11 points.

Nick Dorn

Now it will take five victories in five days for the Phoenix to win the conference tournament.

“We’ve had enough good experiences throughout this season,” Taylor said. “Winning at (UNC) Wilmington was a big win for us against a top-level team in our conference. Winning against Delaware, we’ve had some really good, quality wins where I think our guys have enough confidence.”

 

Elon overcomes William & Mary

Elon had second-half answers to overcome visiting William & Mary for last Thursday night’s 76-71 victory, winning for the third time in a five-game stretch.

“We’re going in the right direction the way we’re supposed to be going,” Simpkins said.

The outcome avenged a January loss and assured Elon would hold the No. 11 seed for the CAA Tournament.

William & Mary led for nearly 29 minutes of game time, including by nine points in the first half. Elon took the lead for good on Sam Sherry’s move in the lane with less than five minutes to play.

“It was really a grind,” Taylor said.

Max Mackinnon drained both ends of a 1-and-1 with 24 seconds left for a 74-71 edge and hit two more foul shots for the game’s last points.

Max Mackinnon

Simpkins posted 18 points and eight rebounds, Dorn scored 14 points and Mackinnon finished with 13 points and five assists. Those outputs helped offset Gabe Dorsey’s 20 points for the Tribe.

The Phoenix played mostly man-to-man defense in the second half, so that reduced some of the Tribe’s perimeter opportunities after the visitors hit eight first-half 3-pointers.

“We felt like we had to give them a different look,” Taylor said.

William & Mary, which completed an 0-9 record in February, shot 0-for-6 on second-half free throws.

 

Women’s basketball

Elon (10-19, 6-10), which is tied for ninth place in the CAA, has two home games this week to end the regular season.

There’s a 7:00 p.m. game Thursday against Hofstra (9-18, 3-13) and a noon matchup Saturday vs. Drexel.

On Sunday, the Phoenix snapped a three-game losing streak by winning 54-49 at Delaware (10-18, 6-10), with Vanessa Taylor providing 12 points and Ajia James posting 11 points.

The CAA Tournament for women runs from March 13-17 in Washington.

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