The Hatters fall to 8-16 overall and 5-8 in Atlantic Sun Conference play with the loss while JU improves to 5-19 overall, 3-10 in the league. The Dolphins are just two games behind the Hatters for the eighth, and final, spot in the A-Sun Tournament with five games left to play.
“It is really disappointing,” Stetson coach Casey Alexander said of the loss. “We verbalized plenty how important this game was and how the last two games we have taken steps in the right direction with effort and playing the way that we want to play. This was a significant step back that we should be embarrassed by.”
Stetson appeared on its way to a comfortable halftime lead, having built a nine-point advantage, 23-14, on a Chris Perez three-pointer with 8:14 left. But, from that point on, the Dolphins dominated, outscoring Stetson 24-8 to take a 38-31 lead into the break.
Part of the turnaround was the outside shooting of JU sophomore guard Aloys Cabell, who hit four three-pointers down the stretch. He was helped by six Stetson turnovers in the final eight minutes of the half, five Dolphins offensive rebounds over the same stretch, and the Hatters hitting just 3-of-8 from the floor.
“We talked about two things, transition and offensive rebounds, as how they can beat us, and they had 22 points between those in the first half,” Alexander said. “We made enough mistakes tonight to last a season – from scouting report to effort, communication to coaching, you name it.”
The Dolphins continued to stretch their lead early in the second half, scoring a pair of quick baskets to grown their lead to 11. Stetson spent the rest of the second half trying to battle from behind, and closed to within three points a couple of times, but JU answered every challenge with a three-pointer and pulled away for the win.
The Dolphins were led by sophomore guard Aloys Cabell, who led all scorers with 28 points, hitting 5-of-8 from three-point range. As a team, JU hit 9-of-22 from long-range while Stetson hit just 5-of 19.
The Hatters were also hurt by their own mistakes, turning the ball over 18 times and allowing JU to grab 13 offensive boards, resulting in 17 second chance points.
“The turnovers were a combination of not wanting the ball, poor play and just poor decisions,” Alexander said. “Maybe we didn’t put them in the right spots. I am sure there is blame to go around, but it is frustrating. We just weren’t in sync all night, and you have to give Jacksonville credit for that. They may have had everything to do with it, but we didn’t play well and we are not pleased at all.”
Stetson was led by sophomore Aaron Graham, who scored 22 points, had seven rebounds and five assists. Joel Naburgs chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds while Chris Perez added 10.
In addition to Cabell, JU got 15 points from Glenn Powell.
The Hatters will return to action at the Edmunds Center on Saturday afternoon when they host Lipscomb at 3:15 p.m. Stetson will play its final home game on the year next Monday against Belmont at 7 p.m.
“Our road ahead is not easy, by any stretch,” Alexander said. “All we can do is go back to work and be as prepared as we can be.”