CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Despite 22 points from senior Adam Pegg and a 21-point outing from junior Aaron Graham, the Stetson men's basketball team (0-1) dropped its season opener to Miami (1-0) by a score of 87-79 on the road Friday night.
"I'm proud of our team for playing hard, and giving ourselves a chance down the stretch," Head Coach Casey Alexander said after the game.
The Hatters got out to a quick start, taking a 12-5 lead over the Hurricanes less than five minutes into the game. Graham knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to highlight the run, while junior Chris Perez opened the scoring and closed the stretch with a pair of pull up jumpers.
Miami used a trio of treys midway through the first to cut the Hatter lead to 24-22 with 7:59 to play in the frame. A three-pointer by senior Joel Naburgs, Stetson's fifth straight basket from beyond the arc, and a bank shot from the wing by Perez extended the lead back to seven at 29-22 with 5:54 to play in the half.
Having held Miami's 6-10, 290 pound center Reggie Johnson to just one field goal before the 5:30 mark in the first half, the big guy finally started to give the Hatters some trouble down the stretch. Johnson tallied 10 points in the final five and a half minutes, to tie the game at 34-34 at the break.
Graham, and his four-for-six three-point shooting, led Stetson with 14 points at the half, while Johnson's 14 first half points led the Hurricanes.
The Canes came out hot in the second half, opening with the first six points and an 11-4 run that gave Miami a 45-38 lead just over three minutes into the period. The Hurricane lead ballooned up to 11 points, at 56-45 with 11:52 to play before Stetson began climbing back into it.
The Hatters did it on the back of Pegg, who scored all 22 of his points in the second half. The center rattled off three buckets in the lane and a three, before a steal and breakaway layup by Graham forced a Miami timeout with 9:15 to play and the Canes' lead cut to six at 60-54.
Miami extended its lead to 13, the largest of the game, less than two minutes later. The Canes' combination of inside play from Johnson and outside shooting was difficult for the Hatters to contain. Stetson continued to battle back though.
In fact, the Hatters immediately went on a 17-7 run to cut the deficit to just three points, at 74-71, with 3:06 to play in the second half. Pegg scored 13 out Stetson's 17 points during the stretch, tipping in a pair of missed shots and connecting on three from beyond the arc to keep the Hatters in the game.
A traditional three-point play by Perez a minute later brought the Hatters within two, at 76-74, but that was as close as they would get. Miami went on to take the season-opener 87-79.
"I hope it means we're made of the right medal," Alexander said of Stetson almost defeating the Hurricanes. "I think our team has a chance to do really good things against teams in our league and against people we're supposed to beat, and I hope tonight was an indication of that."
Pegg led Stetson with 22 points, on four-of-five from beyond the arc, and nine rebounds. Graham finished with 21 points on five three-pointers and two steals. Perez added 12 points, while Naburgs and junior Willie Green tacked on nine a piece.
The Hatters were solid controlling the ball, recording 20 assists and only turning the ball over 11 times. Green, freshman Logan Irwin, and junior Hunter Miller each tallied four assists to lead the Hatters.
Miami put all five starters in double figures with Johnson leading the way with 22 points. He added 11 rebounds, while Kenny Kadji led the Hurricanes with 12 boards and added 12 points and five assists. Shane Larkin led the squad with six helpers.
Stetson will next return home for three straight contests at
the Edmunds Center. The Hatters will
host Florida A&M on Tuesday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m., before welcoming
Southeastern and USF to DeLand later in the month.