JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Leading by as many as 13 points in the second half, the Stetson men's basketball team (6-10, 3-2) endured a seven minute span without a basket late in the contest to defeat ETSU (3-13, 1-2) by a score of 72-70 on the road Thursday night. Junior Chris Perez and senior Adam Pegg led the Hatters with 17 points each.
"I'm really proud of our guys for finishing it out," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said. "It wasn't pretty, and we didn't do things well at all down the stretch - we need to improve on that - but we're happy to get a win. That's two in a row on the road in the conference, that's three out of our last five road wins, and I think it's four out of seven overall that we've won. For a team that was down in the dumps after losing six in a row, that shows a little bit of medal for our guys to come back and do what they've done lately."
Playing against a zone most of the game, Stetson opened the scoring with a pair of three-pointers and knocked down eight treys in the first half alone. After the Bucs eventually tied the game at 8-8, the Hatters used a 14-2 run to take a 22-10 lead with 9:17 to play in the first half.
Senior Joel Naburgs ignited the run with a three that gave Stetson a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the game. Sophomore Dennis Diaz closed the stretch, stealing the ball away from ETSU's Rashawn Rembert, and converting a conventional three-point play on the break to give the Hatters the 12-point advantage early in the game.
The Bucs fought back with a 10-3 run that cut the Stetson lead to five points, at 25-20, but four threes down the stretch, including one from Perez with just four seconds remaining, gave the Hatters a 40-32 lead at the break.
Pegg opened the second half scoring with a layin to give Stetson a double-digit advantage, but it was a multitude of mini runs that swayed the Hatter advantage from 11 to five points throughout the first 10 minutes of the second frame.
A floater in the lane by junior Aaron Graham opened an 8-2 run that gave Stetson its largest lead of the game, a 13-point advantage at 67-54 with 7:16 to play. It was after the last basket of the Hatters' mid-period surge, another three by Perez, that Stetson began its offensive lull.
The Hatters went without a basket from the 8:11 mark in the second half to only 1:13 remaining in the contest. That was when Stetson finally found Pegg in the paint for an easy two to stop 10-0 ETSU run and give the Hatters a 69-64 advantage.
Free throws down the stretch by juniors Willie Green and Hunter Miller made it so a three-pointer by Rembert and a last second dunk by ETSU's Lester Wilson allowed the Hatters to hang on to the 72-70 victory on the road.
"It's nice to get out to a good start, for sure," Alexander said. "You know, making your first two threes and going up 6-0 is a real plus, but we just played with a lot of confidence, and freely, for the first 30 minutes. But we never guarded them very well. Eventually it caught up with us. When we quit scoring, it caught up with us."
Pegg and Perez each totaled 17 points to lead the Hatters in scoring, while Graham added 13 and a game high five assists in the win. Green and Naburgs added six points and four helpers each. The latter also led Stetson with six boards.
ETSU was led by Wilson's 21 points, a 19-point effort from Jarvis Jones, and 16 points from Hunter Harris. Harris added a game high seven rebounds, while Rembert led the Bucs with four assists in the loss.
"I hope it gives us a little bit of confidence," Alexander said of the victory. "It let's us know obviously now that we've done it twice in a row, that we can go on the road and win. It's going to be a different test at Upstate. They're a really good team, and they're playing well."
Stetson will now make the trip over to Spartanburg, S.C. to take on a USC Upstate team that lost to FGCU in overtime on Thursday night to fall to 2-1 in A-Sun play. Fans can watch that game on ESPN3 and WatchESPN. The game will also feature live audio on the Hatters Radio Network.
Notes: Joel Naburgs' two three-pointers give him 150 career triples. Only three players in Stetson history have made more in their careers ... With two blocks in the game, Willie Green moved into eighth place all-time with 56 in his career ... The win marks the second time Stetson has won back-to-back games this season. If the Hatters were to beat USC Upstate it would be three straight wins for the first time since 2009 ... Adam Pegg scored in double figures for the 11th straight game, and Chris Perez totaled double digit points for the 10th straight game.