Never trailing the entire game, the Stetson men's basketball team (1-1) opened up its home slate of contests with a convincing 88-66 victory over Florida A&M (0-2) on Tuesday night at the Edmunds Center. Senior Adam Pegg led the Hatters with 19 points, on eight-of-ten shooting from the field, to help Stetson improve to 1-1 on the season.
"I'm proud of our guys," Head Coach Casey Alexander said after the game. "I think we really competed for 40 minutes. It wasn't pretty the entire time. We had much more success on both sides of the floor in the first half, but our guys are really trying hard to do what we ask them to do, which is goal number one for a coach."
The Hatters scored the first bucket of the game on a jumper from the top of the key by junior Willie Green, and there was no looking back from there. Stetson opened up to a 14-7 advantage less than five minutes in when junior Aaron Graham nailed a three-pointer and then connected on a pair of free throws in consecutive Hatter possessions.
SU extended its lead to double digits for the first time when Green slammed home a tip dunk with 9:42 to play in the first, giving Stetson a 25-14 advantage midway through the period. After a layup by the Rattlers, freshman Leke Solanke matched Green with a thunderous tip dunk of his own, igniting the Stetson crowd and sending the Hatters on a run that extended the lead to 19 four times before the half ended.
Stetson went on a 10-1 run, beginning with a layup by senior Liam McInerney with 8:12 to play in the half, and concluding with a nice post move by Pegg with 5:27 remaining. The stretch gave the Hatters a 37-19 lead.
The Hatters finished the half up 48-29 when freshman Brian Pegg hit junior Chris Perez on a perfect back door cut in the final possession of the period. Stetson put forth a phenomenal shooting percentage of 64.5 percent, and went 5-for-11 from beyond the arc during the frame.
"More than anything, we had the patience we want [in the first half]," Alexander continued. "In preparation we talked about taking a great shot for our team, and for the most part we really did that. We threw the ball into the post seven times in the first half, and we scored on all seven possessions. That's a group of players that are trying to do what we ask them to do."
A layup in the lane by freshman Logan Irwin, and a three-pointer by senior Joel Naburgs got Stetson out to a similarly hot start in the second half. The 27-point lead that Graham gave the Hatters on a breakaway dunk with 17:39 to play in the game slowly began to fade as the Rattlers started hitting some shots, and the Hatters went a bit cold.
Florida A&M used a 10-0 run midway through the period to cut the lead to 69-53 with 8:33 to play on a layup by Jamari Bradshaw. After Alexander called a 30 second timeout to rally the troops, the Hatters fed the ball into the post to Pegg to stop the bleeding. The Stetson center scored in the paint to stop the FAMU run.
"We called a couple plays to get the ball inside," Alexander said. "Adam's a guy that can get us a basket or a foul, and our guys know that. He wants that challenge, and our guys know that we can count on him. It was great that when we went to him, he delivered, and settled the storm a little bit."
The Rattlers didn't quit there though, getting as close as 11 points, at 76-65, with 4:38 to play in the game. That was when Graham hit his second of three treys on the night to get the Stetson lead back to 14 points and ultimately put away Florida A&M.
Graham, Perez, and Pegg all hit free throws down the stretch as Stetson went on to defeat the Rattlers 88-66 and improve to 1-1 on the season. Pegg led SU with 19 points, while Graham added 16, Naburgs chipped in with 11, and Irwin added 10.
The Hatters recorded 21 assists, making it two straight games with 20 or more assists to start the season. Florida A&M, on the other hand, only managed to tally nine assists on their 27 baskets in the game. Stetson turned it over 15 times to the Rattlers 17, but the Hatters outscored FAMU 26-13 off of turnovers.
Florida A&M was led by Muhammad Abdul-Aleem, who scored a game-high 20 points. Jamie Adams added 13, and Markee Teal led all players with seven rebounds.
Stetson will next host Southeastern on Monday, Nov. 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Edmunds Center. The game can be watched for free on HatterVision and ASun.TV, or listened to live on WSBB 1230 AM in New Smyrna and 1490 AM in DeLand.