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Elon men pull off CAA stunner vs. Delaware at Schar Center

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Against difficult odds, Elon delivered a 73-67 upset of visiting Delaware in a result Thursday night with huge implications near the top of the Coastal Athletic Association men’s basketball standings.

The Phoenix didn’t let it get away in a tense late-game stretch, executing at a high clip at the right times.

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“We believe in them,” Elon coach Billy Taylor said. “We just keep telling them: We believe in you guys.”

With Max Mackinnon on his way to 26 points and TK Simpkins ending up with 25 points – both season highs – the Phoenix had the Schar Center gathering sensing an upset.

“A crowd that was energized, that got behind us,” Taylor said.

Elon (11-15 overall, 4-9 CAA) needed all the help it could get, with starting point guard Rob Higgins out with an injury and center Sam Sherry saddled with foul trouble and logging just 12 minutes before fouling out.

The Blue Hens (16-10, 8-5), who collected 12 offensive rebounds, entered the night as one of six teams within a game of first place in the CAA. Elon was tied for second-to-last.

“It has been a tough conference run for us,” Taylor said. “We wanted our guys to stay positive. … Anytime you win in league, it’s just a great joy. You have to embrace every one of those opportunities.”

The outcome doused Delaware’s four-game winning streak in possibly the program’s final visit to Elon. The Blue Hens head to Conference USA membership in the summer of 2025.

“In terms of a 40-minute game, that’s the best that we’ve had,” Taylor said. “It was the closest to 40 minutes that we’ve put together. That was very encouraging for me to see ‘OK, that’s growth.’”

Elon led for almost 32 minutes of game time, but there were potential potholes. The Blue Hens led 58-56 before a strong push from the Phoenix.

Freshman Isaac Harrell went to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1 with 3:30 left for his first foul shots in CAA play, sinking both for a 60-58 lead. Sherry fouled out on Delaware’s ensuing possession, and Jyare Davis, the reigning CAA Player of the Week, made one free throw.

Before the Blue Hens scored again, Simpkins converted on a drive and Mackinnon drained a 3-pointer, leaving Elon with a 65-59 edge with about a minute to play.

Nothing fazed the Phoenix, which returned from Monday night’s 25-point loss at Towson and looked crisp for most of the first half.

“It’s the next game,” Simpkins said. “We can’t be focused on the last game.”

Elon’s ability to anticipate passing lanes produced 13 steals, with Mackinnon crediting “our activity on the defensive end” for making a difference.

Mackinnon scored 14 of Elon’s first 34 points. The Phoenix led 38-31 at halftime.

Elon had two players notch 25 or more points in the same game for the first time since a February 2018 loss at William & Mary, when Tyler Seibring had 28 points and Dainan Swoope posted 25. So it was the first time the Phoenix accomplished that in the Schar Center.

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