The Hatters had to dig deep and play a full 40 minutes Saturday to extend its non-conference home-court winning streak to 17.
Trailing by four points with 6:30 to play, Stetson (8-4) finished the game on a 20-7 run to defeat visiting Nicholls State 74-65 and capture the 2013 Hatter Classic title.
The wild, seesaw affair featured eight ties and 26 lead changes. Stetson got off to a slow start, hitting just 8-of-27 field goal attempts in the first half. Nicholls State (5-5) owned a 31-27 halftime lead.
“It sure was ugly, that’s my thought, but we won ugly so I’ll take it." Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "In the first half we just struggled scoring. We couldn’t put anything in the basket, and then we were giving them easy shots."
The Hatters shot better in the second half (55%), but still had to overcome four separate four-point deficits before pulling ahead late.
“I thought in the second half we did a much better job of guarding them and not giving them the easy ones," Bria said. "They still hit some tough shots, but they were contested shots, so I don’t think we gave them anything easy."
Jama Sharp led five Hatters in double figures with 18 points, including a go-ahead lay-up with five minutes to play and a clutch three-pointer from the top of the key at the 3:35 mark.
“I think Jama really struggled in this game," Bria said. "She just had some turnovers that she typically doesn’t have, but she kept playing hard. That three was huge, so I was glad that she had the confidence to step up there and shoot it. It was big for us, kind of opened (the game) up, gave us some confidence and momentum down the stretch."
Sharp also fed a streaking Brianti Saunders for a key transition basket at the 1:44 mark that gave Stetson its biggest lead at five.
"She’s so fast," Bria said about Saunders, who finished with 16 points. "'Brea' played that way the whole game. She was so aggressive the entire game. Any time it comes down the stretch like that and you’re struggling to score, plays like that they really boost your defense, too. The pressure then came on them to score."
C.J. Coddington provided a huge spark off the bench, registering 11 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
"I think C.J. had the best game of her career," Bria said. "She was so active and aggressive on the boards, and she hit a couple of key baskets, one of them to tie the game. She had a great game."
Amber Porter recorded her second straight double-double (13 points, 15 rebounds) to land a spot on the all-tournament team. She also had seven blocks. Sasha Sims took home tournament Most Valuable Player honors after averaging 19.0 points in the two games, including 10 on Saturday.
With the victory, the Hatters completed their 12-game non-conference schedule with eight wins.
“If somebody would have said (before the season) we would be 8-4 I would have said you’re crazy," Bria said. "I’m just pleasantly surprised. They’ve really meshed well together. We still do some things like that show our youth and show that we haven’t played together very long. But overall, we are much further ahead than I thought we’d be at this time."
In the consolation game, Murray State defeated Bethune-Cookman 81-70.
Stetson will open Atlantic Sun Conference play in two weeks, on Jan. 4 at Florida Gulf Coast.
Notes: Stetson has won the Hatter Classic title in each of the last four years (8-0 record) ... Amber Porter has four double-doubles this season ... Stetson is 8-0 when outscoring its opponent in the paint (34-22 advantage vs. Nicholls) ... The Hatters have won 23 of their last 24 and 35 of their last 37 at home.
Chastity Rene Taylor (BCU)
Keiona Kirby (Murray State)
Jenny Nash (Nicholls State)
Amber Porter (Stetson)
Sasha Sims-MVP (Stetson)