The Stetson men's basketball team led by as many as 21 points, cruising to a 79-71 victory over Flagler in the team's first and only exhibition contest of the season on Monday night at the Edmunds Center.
"I think we did a lot of things well, which is in the big picture of things, what we want to focus on," Head Coach Casey Alexander said after the game. "The guys played hard, energized, and tried to do what we asked them to do."
The Hatters came out fast and shooting the ball well, taking a 13-4 lead over the Saints less than five minutes into the game. A layup by junior Willie Green off of an assist by junior Chris Perez opened the scoring, and Stetson was off and running from there. Green added two more points on an emphatic dunk later in the run, and Perez capped the stretch with a driving layup off an assist from freshman Logan Irwin.
The two teams traded baskets for the next couple of minutes as the Saints cut the Stetson lead to five at 19-14 with 13:05 to play in the half, but a bevy of three-pointers led to a 14-2 Hatter run that extended the team's lead to 39-20 with just 4:30 to play in the half.
In fact, at one point, eight straight baskets from Stetson came from beyond the arc. Senior Liam McInerney connected on two during the stretch, while junior Aaron Graham drained three threes to help the Hatters gain the first half advantage.
An 8-2 run by the Saint to end the half cut Stetson's lead to 41-28 at the break. The Hatters were 9-for-19 from three-point range during the frame, but just 15-for-33 overall and only got to the line for two attempts.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first. Perez opened the period with a layup off of an assist from senior Joel Naburgs, and Green added a tip dunk to increase the Stetson lead to 17 at 45-28 less than two minutes into the frame.
The Stetson lead grew to as many as 21 on a number of occasions, the last of which was at 65-44 when Naburgs stole the ball in the Flagler back court and fed freshman Leke Solanke for a layup with 9:26 to play in the game.
That was when the Saints started to fight back though. Flagler used a 22-8 run late in the game to cut the Hatter lead to seven at 73-66 with 2:40 left on the clock. Sophomore Matt Clark scored 15 points, including a trio of three-pointers, during the stretch.
"In the second half we got sloppy," Alexander continued. "We took the first available shot too often, and we didn't shoot it well. So when you combine those two things, you create an opportunity for the other team to get back in the game."
A fade away jumper off of a tough post move by senior Adam Pegg, a pair of late in the game free throws by Irwin, and a put back layup from Naburgs allowed Stetson to hang on for the 79-71 victory in front of its home crowd.
Both Graham and Pegg finished with 16 points to lead the Hatters in scoring. Green added 12 points, and led the squad with nine rebounds and two blocks. Naburgs gave Stetson four players in double figures, adding 10 points and five boards. Junior Hunter Miller led the Hatters with six assists and three steals off the bench.
Stetson will now get back to work on the practice court before the team's regular season opener at Miami on Friday, November 9 at 5:30 pm.
"We have to be more committed to executing offense," Alexander said when referencing what the team had to do to improve before the regular season starts. "I wouldn't say that we took a lot of bad shots, I just would say that we didn't take a lot of great shots. We have to be more selective. We have to be more determined to get great shots when we can get them."
Coach Alexander Interview