By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Maybe Elon has a flair for the dramatic after all.
Max Mackinnon sank both ends of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity with 4.3 seconds to play and the Phoenix pulled out a 70-68 victory against visiting Hampton in Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball Monday night at Schar Center.
“I trust my work,” Mackinnon said. “I was going to sink those two free throws. I took a deep breath and knocked them down.”
Playing on national television for the first time this season, it was just the second game that the Phoenix won with a single-digit margin.
“Really proud of our guys for finding a way,” Elon coach Billy Taylor said. “We’ve lost some tough games this year, obviously. So being able to find a way to win this game down the stretch and have young players step up and make big plays at a critical stretch of the game was really impressive to me.”
The dramatic final minute came after Elon, which had a 17-point lead vanish, went through a scoring drought of nearly six minutes at the worst possible time.
But there was still hope. Elon’s Sean Halloran converted on a drive with 1:32 left before a defensive stop. After an out-of-bounds call meant Elon inbounded from the baseline, Mackinnon drained a 3 from the top of the key with 36 seconds left for a 68-66 edge.
“The shot clock was getting run down, you have to make a play,” Mackinnon said. “I was open, just shot it.”
The Pirates’ Russell Dean drove for a basket at the 11.9-second mark. Mackinnon was fouled while darting across the lane, with his free throws allowing the Phoenix to finish 10-for-10 at the foul line.
Elon (7-20, 5-9 CAA) has won five of its last six games going into Thursday night’s clash with league co-leader College of Charleston (25-3, 13-2).
This is Elon’s best conference stretch since winning five of six games in February 2020. The Phoenix has climbed into a five-way tie for seventh place with four games remaining in the 13-team league.
Mackinnon posted 18 points just hours after he was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the second week in a row. Jerald Gillens-Butler added 14 points and Halloran ended up with 18 points and seven assists.
Elon’s lead shrunk to 59-55 with nine minutes to play and last-place Hampton (6-21, 3-11), which lost its fourth game in a row, later used an 11-0 run to go up 66-63.
The Phoenix built a 42-31 halftime lead, with Gillens-Butler draining three free throws in the final second. The gap ballooned to 53-36 with less than 16 minutes left.
“You kind of feel like you’re on the verge of blowing it really wide open,” Taylor said.
The biggest early lift came from freshman guard. LA Pratt coming off the bench. He scored seven of Elon’s first 19 points and had a career-high nine points with 7½ minutes left in the opening half.
See other recent Elon basketball coverage:
Elon wins over William and Mary 66-55 Sat. at Schar Center: https://alamancenews.com/elon-men-add-to-recent-success-top-william-mary-sat-at-schar-center/
Mackinnon is conference Freshman of the Week for second time this season as Elon men’s and women’s teams get on a roll : https://alamancenews.com/elon-basketball-teams-go-on-winning-streaks/