Elon men’s basketball rounds out record-breaking season in CAA Tournament Championship game

The tough loss to the Drexel Dragons in the conference championship game on Tuesday night capped an impressive run, with Elon becoming the first No. 8 seed to play for the conference tournament title.

The Elon men’s basketball team posted a tough loss to Drexel University in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship game Tuesday night, ending an impressive run that saw the Phoenix become the first No. 8 seed to play for the CAA tournament title.

Elon was bidding for its first CAA tournament championship after joining the conference nearly seven years ago. This year saw the team edge one game closer to a tournament title after playing in its first CAA tournament semifinal last spring in Head Coach Mike Shrage’s first season with the Phoenix.

For their strong performance throughout the tournament, Elon’s Hunter McIntosh and Ikenna Ndugba were named to the All-CAA Tournament Team.

“It’s hard right now,” Schrage said during the post-game news conference. “I just told the guys in the locker room I’m proud of them. Again, they’ve taken us on an amazing journey this year. Nobody, except maybe who was inside our locker room, ever thought that we could achieve this if you watched us in late January and early February. And they just stayed believing and stayed working.”

Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Elon was riding a seven-game winning streak that saw the Phoenix upend No. 1 seed James Madison University on Sunday and defeat defending tournament champion Hostra University on Monday to earn a shot at the CAA tournament title. A win would have meant Elon men’s basketball’s first berth in the NCAA tournament.

“They’re a really resilient group,” Schrage said. “Obviously if you look at it, we made another step in the conference tournament. … It’s really tough, and I wanted them to cherish it, but they’ll be remembered for playing their best basketball in February and March, and that’s what our program is going to be built on.”

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, attendance at Atlantic Union Bank Center at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was limited to only several hundred spectators, with Elon fans tuning in on campus and from their homes to cheer on the Phoenix. More than 100 students gathered on Young Commons in front of the Moseley Center to watch the game broadcast on an oversized inflatable screen.

Elon started off the season in November with wins over N.C. Wesleyan and High Point University before facing numerous game cancellations, including contests against Duke University and the University of North Carolina, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After notching a third win, Elon would lose eight games while seeing five more games canceled because of the pandemic.

Students gathered on Young Commons to cheer on the Phoenix.

But the Phoenix would launch a winning streak on Sunday, Feb. 14, with a victory over College Charleston that would carry them through the end of the regular season and into the conference tournament championship. Elon ended the season with a 10-9 record.

Elon formally joined the Colonial Athletic Association on July 2, 2014, with Elon Director of Athletics Dave Blank noting at the time that the conference was a great fit both athletically and academically. The move followed a decade of success for Elon on the fields, courts and the classroom in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix won 21 Southern Conference regular-season and tournament titles, and 15 student-athletes earned Southern Conference Player of the Year recognition.