After a nine-day layoff, the Stetson women’s basketball team (3-2) will return to the court Friday night against the Florida State Seminoles (4-1) in a game broadcast live on ESPN3. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Hatters completed a busy stretch of four games in six days last week with a 3-1 mark. Contributing to the team’s early-season success has been the play of freshmen Brianti Saunders and Amber Porter. Saunders is averaging 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and has already twice been named the Atlantic Sun Conference Newcomer of the Week. Porter, meanwhile, is averaging 10.8 points and 1.8 blocks per game, and is among the league leaders in field goal percentage (58.8%).
“They are playing like veterans, those two,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said about Saunders and Porter. “It has been a pleasant surprise. I knew they would do well, but I didn’t have any idea that they would have done as well as they have so soon. It is going to be interesting to see if they can sustain it for a full season. The season is much longer, and it can be a grind, but I think they will.”
Saunders and Porter both said they had butterflies going into their first collegiate game earlier this month at Oklahoma.
“I was very nervous because I knew it was going to be way different than high school,” Saunders said. “You just have to get the first game out of the way. The nerves were really up there because you don’t know what to expect. Now that I have started to play more with my teammates the nerves are gone. I am just always excited for the next game.”
Saunders netted 10 points in her collegiate debut while Porter registered eight points and five rebounds. When it came time for Stetson’s next game at Stephen F. Austin, Porter was surprised to find her name in the starting line-up. She responded with six points, two offensive rebounds, and a blocked shot - all coming in just the first 1:44 of the game.
“I was even more nervous because it was my first time starting,” Porter said. “The start (of the game) helped calm me down, and I wasn’t as nervous after that.”
Bria said both Saunders and Porter have done a good job of making the transition from the high school level to Division I play.
“There is a lot of adjusting (for freshmen),” Bria said. “It is a faster game, and it is a more physical game. There is also a really big mental component. You actually have to know a scout and implement it. In high school, they don’t do a lot of scouting or making adjustments in-game. Mentally you have to be able to execute. Playing when you are tired is also much harder to do, and so far they have done it.”
The Hatters enter Friday’s game with a conference-leading 75.8 points per game scoring average. However, Stetson has also allowed 73.0 points per game, nearly 14 points higher than the team averaged last year.
“We are not very good defensively,” Bria said. “I still think we are not rebounding as well as we need to. Florida State is really going to show us if we have improved in rebounding or not, because they are a great rebounding team. I think we have a ways to go, but I like our progress. I think playing together more and more has really helped.”
Friday’s game will be available on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app on mobile devices with Tom Block and Melissa Bruner on the call. Fans can also listen to game live on WSBB, AM1230 New Smyrna Beach, AM1490 DeLand, and on the web at myam1230.com. Live stats, the @StetsonWBB twitter feed, and the Hat-Alerts text messaging service are also available for in-game updates.
Notes: Florida State is receiving votes in both the AP Top 25 poll (unofficial #27 ranking) and the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll (unofficial #26 ranking) ... Stetson begins another busy stretch of four games in 10 days.
Broadcast Note: ESPN3 and WatchESPN is available to fans who receive ESPN's linear networks as part of their video subscription from Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS TV, Comcast Xfinity TV or Midcontinent Communications, Cablevision or Cox Communications. The app is available free to download for Android devices from the Google Play store and Amazon Appstore and for Apple devices from the App Store, as well as online via WatchESPN.com.