Junior Kyle Sikora may have only scored six points, but without his first-half effort against Jacksonville, Stetson may not have won Saturday’s game.
After senior Willie Green picked up two fouls within the first two minutes of the game, he had to spend the rest of the first half on the bench. With Stetson down its leading scorer, Sikora came into the game and helped his team to one of their best halves of the season.
“We had our bench to step up for us today,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said after the game. “Kyle Sikora did a fantastic job coming off the bench in the first half when Willie was in foul trouble.”
Sikora got seven of his career high eight rebounds in the first half, along with two huge dunks, one block, and one assist.
“Our guys on the bench definitely stepped up, especially Kyle,” Green said. “He was grabbing boards, blocking shots, dunking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kyle dunk that many times. That was definitely a great sight.”
Throughout the first half, Sikora and redshirt-freshman Brian Pegg created a formidable team in the paint. Together the two had 15 of Stetson’s 19 rebounds in the first period. They also proved to be a dominant duo offensively as Sikora slammed home two dunks off of assists from Pegg.
“Kyle played really well,” Pegg said. “I got the ball in the paint a few times, and everybody just kind of collapsed on me. I found him in the paint because he was in the right place every time. It was a lot of fun in the first half, especially down at the end when we just kept getting basket after basket.”
Sikora’s aggressive play down low contributed to Stetson’s momentum in the first half, which helped them to a 17-point lead at halftime.
“I think it gets everybody going, not just the team,” Sikora said. “You can see it in the crowd; everybody was going. I mean we had I think a 24-point lead at one point. We were just running off adrenalin and energy.”
In the second half, Stetson struggled a bit as Jacksonville fought hard to get back in the game. The Dolphins went on a huge run to shrink the Hatters lead to only seven points with 8:09 remaining in the game.
“It turned out we needed the lead because our second half was not quite as good as our first,” said Sikora. “But I think the energy just carried us through from the first half because we were just so excited to be up.”
Although Jacksonville came close, they were never able to tie the score. The lead from the first half, thanks in part to Sikora’s contributions, gave Stetson the necessary cushion to win the game, 73-68.