Monday, February 6, 2023

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Elon threatens before falling in basketball loss

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By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon’s losing continued in men’s basketball Saturday, but there were several glimmers of hope.

That’s definitely needed in a challenging season for the Phoenix.

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“We all believe,” guard Max Mackinnon said. “We’re not going to quit.”

That was evident against Towson at Schar Center, where Elon rallied before falling 66-62.

“It’s just the growth that we continue to see with this team,” first-year coach Billy Taylor said. “We’re kind of building it. You can see a little bit more comfort from guys.”

Yet Elon (2-18, 0-7 Colonial Athletic Association) can’t seem to break the trend of unwanted results.

This outcome matched the closest Elon came to winning in any defeat this season. It also marked the eighth single-digit setback of the season, with four of those coming in CAA play.

“There have been a number of them that we’re kind of right there,” Taylor said. “We’re seeing growth from our team. Unfortunately, it’s not showing in terms of wins and losses right now, so that’s the hard part.”

Nicholas Timberlake’s 24 points led Towson (14-7, 6-2), which is the CAA preseason favorite, to its fourth consecutive victory.

For the Phoenix, Jerald Gillens-Butler scored 14 points and Mackinnon finished with 12.

“If we hit a couple more jumpers (it might be different),” Mackinnon said.

Elon joins Delaware State and Long Island as the only Division I teams nationally without a victory against a Division I opponent. The Phoenix defeated Erskine and Johnson & Wales – both more than a month ago.

Elon has six remaining home games, including Thursday night vs. Hofstra and next Saturday afternoon vs. Drexel.

Because of various lineups dictated by injuries, Taylor said the starting group has been together for only four games.

“Hopefully we can get to playing our best basketball into February, into March and let’s see what happens,” Taylor said.

Mackinnon flubbed a dunk attempt on a breakaway with a chance to put the Phoenix up 10-0. Towson was even on Cameron Holden’s three-point play at the 9:45 mark of the first half. The Tigers led 40-26 at halftime.

Towson had a 13-0 scoring run in the first half, but the Tigers committed 12 of their 13 turnovers in the second half.

“I thought our guys stayed in the fight and chipped away,” Taylor said.

The Phoenix closed within 54-48 with less than seven minutes remaining. Torrence Watson’s two free throws about a minute later made it 57-52.

Then off a Towson turnover, Watson missed a layup in transition. Just when there was a chance Elon had another rally in the works, Timberlake’s 3 made it 62-54.

Elon’s Sam Sherry scored on a move and another turnover turned into Sean Halloran’s layup. Towson’s next turnover gave the Phoenix a chance, but two missed shots on the ensuing possession kept the score 62-58.

But the Phoenix hung in there until Mackinnon’s drive made it 62-60 with 8.1 seconds left. Four Timberlake free throws came sandwiched around Halloran’s layup with 1.7 seconds remaining.

By the end, Towson made 11 shots from 3-point range compared to Elon’s five.

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