Down 98-90 with 10 seconds to play, the Hatters got a three-pointer from Aaron Graham, a steal and a three from Joel Naburgs, to cut the deficit to two with 4.6 left. Stetson sent UNF’s Jerron Granberry to the free throw line and, when he missed the second attempt, the Hatters had a chance to tie.
Graham got the ball across half court and got an open look from about 40 feet, but his shot came up just short.
The loss dropped the Hatters to 8-15 overall and 5-7 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. UNF improved to 12-13 overall and 6-6 in league play.
“I hope that is a lesson to everyone that you keep playing, because you never know,” Stetson coach Casey Alexander said. “All it took was one turnover and suddenly it was a totally different game. I was really proud of our guys for staying in there and giving themselves a chance against some pretty tough circumstances.”
What got the Hatters into the tough circumstances at the end of the game was some remarkable shooting by the Ospreys. UNF shot 60.7 percent from the floor in the game, including 11-of-22 from three-point range.
It wasn’t as if the Ospreys were getting open looks either.
“They had guys make shots that we would let them take all day, and they made them,” Alexander said. “You have to give them credit for that. There is nothing more that we can ask our guys to do.”
The primary examples of hitting unbelievable shots were UNF’s two long-range gunners, Parker Smith and Granberry. Both hit three three-pointers in the first half, all contested, and it was Granberry who keyed the Ospreys surge in the second half to take the lead with less than eight minutes to play.
“Granberry was a great example,” Alexander said. “He tried to draw two fouls, was totally off-balance trying to draw the foul, and he throws it in. The last one he made, he was deep, off-balance and he still threw it in. All we can do is make him take that shot. I told our team that we could not have asked them to take a tougher shot than we asked them to take, and they made it.”
Early on, it was Stetson that opened the game on fire, scoring almost as quickly as the Hatters could get the ball to the offensive end of the floor, and doing it without Adam Pegg scoring a point.
The Hatters shot a blistering 55.9 percent from the floor in the first half, including 16-of-24 from inside the three-point arc and 13-of-14 from the free throw line. The result was the highest scoring half of the season, but just a seven point lead over the Ospreys at the break, 54-47.
The lead could have been bigger at halftime, expect UNF shot and even better 58.1 percent from the floor and hit six three-pointers to just three for Stetson. Smith, who had just five points when the teams played in DeLand, had 13 in the first half on Saturday.
“We were disappointed to only be up by seven, there is no doubt,” Alexander said. “We got into a stretch where we were just trading baskets and we learned at Lipscomb that isn’t good enough.”
Early in the second half the Ospreys were able to take advantage of some offensive rebounds to get easy baskets. Forward Matt Sauey was held without a basket in the first half, and played just two minutes, but got a couple of easy putbacks early in the second half.
The final stats showed UNF outscored Stetson in the paint 48-42, and the Ospreys out-rebounded the Hatters, who came in as the top rebounding team in the A-Sun, 38-26.
“The way we can improve is that we gave up five offensive rebound putbacks in the first 10 minutes of the second half,” Alexander said. “That got them going and kept them in the game. They got the momentum and that helped them to take the lead. That is the single biggest thing that I am disappointed with.”
The Hatters finished the game with five players scoring in double figures, while Pegg scored just six. Graham led the team with 24 points, hitting 4-of-8 from three-point range. Chris Perez had another strong outing and finished with 22 points while Joel Naburgs finished with 16, Willie Green had 14 and Liam McInerney had 10.
Granberry led all scorers with 25 points in the game for UNF, who also had five in double figures. Smith scored 21 followed by Andy Diaz with 16, Travis Wallace with 14 and Sauey with 11.
The Hatters will have to shake off the disappointment from the loss to UNF quickly because they will be back in action on Monday night when they travel back up I-95 to face the Dolphins of Jacksonville. That game is set for 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Arena.