Monday, February 26, 2024

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Riveting Thursday night rally fades for Elon men vs. UNCW

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon’s big comeback wasn’t big enough against UNC Wilmington in men’s basketball Thursday night.

The Phoenix suffered its third straight loss with the 82-70 defeat at Schar Center.

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From down 23 to within three, Elon made it interesting.

“I think that second half of basketball is who we are,” Elon guard L.A. Pratt said.

But UNCW’s Trazarien White poured in 31 points and that was too much for the Phoenix (8-10 overall, 1-4 Coastal Athletic Association).

T.K. Simpkins and Pratt each scored 16 points and Rob Higgins posted 13 points for Elon, which shot 14-for-23 on second-half free throws.

T.K. Simpkins
Rob Higgins

UNCW (12-5, 3-2), which won its third consecutive game, bounced out to a 21-9 lead. Seven of the Seahawks’ first nine baskets were 3-pointers as the margin grew, eventually reaching 40-17. UNCW’s 46-27 halftime lead came with 65.4 percent shooting from the field.

“I think we got really deflated from giving up baskets,” Elon coach Billy Taylor said.

Elon scored the first 10 points of the second half and then made a gradual climb. A Zac Ervin 3-pointer made it 59-53 and later Simpkins drained two free throws to cut the gap to 65-62 with 7:56 remaining.

“After a bad 20 minutes, to be in that position against that team is a pretty good statement for us,” Taylor said.

White scored the next five points. He attempted all 20 of his free throws in the second half, making only 11. He was 9-for-12 from the field for the game. Teammate K.J. Jenkins was 5-for-7 on 3s and ended up with 18 points.

Taylor said he hopes the inspired second half carries into Saturday night’s matchup with visiting Northeastern (7-11, 2-3), which lost 72-65 on Thursday night at North Carolina A&T.

“We did a better job with our urgency,” Taylor said. “We have to figure out how to play with that urgency right from the tap.”

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