Victoria McGowan scored a career-high 33 points and Stetson rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to defeat Kennesaw State 57-52 in an Atlantic Sun Conference game Wednesday afternoon at the KSU Convocation Center.
With the victory, the Hatters (9-4, 2-0 A-Sun) completed a sweep of their conference-opening two-game road trip and extended their winning streak to five games in a row.
“At the end of the day we fought,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. “We know we are always going to get every team’s best. I was really proud of our kids for sticking together. We were fortunate to get two road wins, so we’re happy.”
Despite entering the game as league leaders in both field goal and three-point field goal percentage, Stetson was uncharacteristically cold from the floor, shooting just 30% in the opening 20 minutes including a 1-for-10 mark from behind the arc. The Owls (4-10, 0-2 A-Sun) led 30-25 at halftime.
“I don’t think we shot the ball very well, that was the biggest difference in the game,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. “I thought we had good looks, we had several points in the paint that we just didn’t put in.”
Kennesaw, however, continued to knock down their three-point attempts, and the Owls extended the lead to 48-36 on a three from Danielle Jackson with 10:49 remaining.
McGowan answered with a three of her own, just the second three-pointer of the game for Stetson, and the Hatters started what would be a game-winning 15-0 run.
Defensively the Hatters went into a zone defense, which forced Kennesaw into several turnovers and kept the Owls completely off the scoreboard for the next nine minutes.
“I thought our zone defense really bothered them, they didn’t know what to do with it,” Bria said. “It was very effective and caused them a lot of problems, and it got them to turn the ball over. I really don’t play it that much, but it was working, so I stayed in it.
Meantime the offense shook off its struggles and got to work. Back-to-back layups by Janelle Mills and Sasha Sims pulled Stetson within five at the 9:01 mark, but neither team managed to score over the next four-and-a-half minutes.
Then McGowan stepped up to complete the comeback. On consecutive possessions the Hatter senior hit a pair of free throws, a fastbreak lay-up, and a midrange jumper to give Stetson a 49-48 and a lead the Hatters would not relinquish. Stetson hit all eight of its free throw attempts down the stretch to nail down the victory.
“I thought Victoria McGowan put the team on her back,” Bria said. “It’s what she does. She’ll take over a game. I don’t know so much that Victoria just loves winning as she just hates losing. I can always tell when she gets that look, that she is about to take over the game.
“But she can’t do it alone,” Bria continued. “I felt Ashley Dennis took charges that were key plays in the game that turned the momentum around. And Janelle Mills was great for us at the top of our 1-3-1. Between Ashley and Janelle, they both made plays that were huge for us.”
McGowan went 8-for-16 from the floor and 15-of-17 from the line to become the first Hatter since Nefertiti Walker in 2006 to score 30 or more points in a game. She added 10 rebounds for her 11th career double-double.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates,” McGowan said. “Our defense picked up after the 11 minute mark, and we locked down on ‘D’ and rebounded. I think that’s what got us the win.
"It was a good win and a good learning experience for us.”
Shanasa Sanders led the Hatters with 12 rebounds.
The Hatters will return home to the Edmunds Center for a two-game home stand this Saturday and Monday against the two Jacksonville-area opponents. Stetson will host North Florida at 1 p.m. Saturday and Jacksonville at 3 p.m. on Monday. Broadcasts for both games will be available on HatterVision and WSBB.
Notes: Stetson ended the game on a 21-4 run ... McGowan scored 20 of the Hatters' 32 points in the second half ... Her 15 free throws made was the most by a Hatter since Michelle Michael hit 16 (school record) on Jan. 3, 1989 ... The Hatters have won eight straight games over the Owls and six straight at the Convocation Center … It was only Stetson's third game this year decided by less than 10 points (Hofstra, Charlotte) … McGowan’s previous career-high was 29 points at Mercer on Jan. 4, 2012 ... The last Hatter to score 30 points was Nefertiti Walker (35 points) vs. North Florida on March 2, 2006.