The first half of the opening game saw Elon and Towson playing to their strengths. Elon hit 7-of-13 from downtown, and when the Phoenix is shooting accurately while playing at its typically swift pace, it can beat with anyone in the league. Meanwhile, the Tigers did their thing, dominating the glass to create a 15-0 advantage for second-chance points.
Towson took a 34-33 lead into halftime after A.J. Astroh’s buzzer-beater lay-in.
But Elon buckled down in the second half. The Phoenix stopped the onslaught of extra possessions. And after allowing Towson to push the game into overtime, Elon created some crucial second chances of its own.
You’d expect a veteran like Austin Hamilton to take the air out of the ball with his team up three and 28 seconds on the shot clock. But seniors play to win, and Hamilton’s deep 3-pointer with 2:21 to play gave Elon a 70-64 lead that proved to be insurmountable.
Hamilton proceeded to force a momentous steal with 20 seconds to go, and classmate Kevin Blake flushed home the fast-break dunk that wrapped up the victory. Elon eventually won 74-69 in its first-ever CAA Tournament game.
We’ve made it this far without mentioning CAA Rookie of the Year Elijah Bryant, who was just magnificent on Friday night. Bryant scored a game-high 21 points to lead five Elon players in double figures. Seniors Hamilton and Blake joined three-point ace Tanner Samson in double figures. We’ve come to expect standout performances from the guard quartet.
For Matt Matheny’s group, the most surprising performance came from freshman wing Collin Luther, who scored a career-high 11 points in 16 minutes of play. Luther came in averaging 1.7 points over 18 conference games. If you need proof that it’s officially March, allow Luther to serve as your calendar.
Towson All-Rookie pick Mike Morsell scored a team-best 18 points, and Four McGlynn (13 points) hit several crucial free throws to spur Towson along. It’s no consolation now, but Towson’s an exciting young team with a bright future. Elon has experienced guards it can rely upon in the clutch moments of the game. Towson has McGlynn and little else in the way of D-I postseason experience.
Less than 16 hours after beating Towson, Elon will take the floor to battle William & Mary. Elon and William & Mary split the season series, with each team holding serve on its own court. Tribe Athletics has some notes on the upcoming dual, which will be broadcast on Comcast SportNet at noon EST.
in the way of player with postseason experience. Towson only loses two players from this season’s team, and should push to finish in the top half of the league next season.