The Stetson men's basketball team (13-14, 10-6) returns to action on Thursday for the penultimate game of the 2012-13 regular season. The Hatters, winners of their last three contests and currently in third place in the Atlantic Sun Conference, will host Kennesaw State (3-25, 2-14) at 7:15 p.m. at the Edmunds Center.
"It's not a prerequisite to play well in the tournament," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said of momentum at the end of the season. "But I think everybody feels better when you have something positive going. Recent success lends itself to playing better, and a little bit more freely when you get there, so it would be nice to continue that this week, and let the results take care of themselves."
The Hatters are playing extremely well as of late, winning four of their last five games, including an 80-71 victory over second place Florida Gulf Coast last Friday. Stetson avenged a 31-point loss at FGCU earlier this season thanks to solid defense, stellar shooting, and a career night from senior Joel Naburgs. The guard was named A-Sun Player of the Week for his 27 points, seven rebounds, and six assists against the Eagles.
"I think the Gulf Coast win did a lot for our team," Alexander said. "I think there's enough motivation already for the last week of the regular season, and the conference tournament, but I think [the win over FGCU] will help us be a little bit more ready, a little bit better each day going forward."
Stetson will have to be ready for a Kennesaw State team that has nothing to lose on Thursday. The Owls have missed the conference tournament for the second straight season with their current 2-14 A-Sun mark. But as fans have seen throughout this season, any team can beat any other in this league. The Hatters barely topped the Owls in Kennesaw earlier this year, and one of KSU's two league victories came against first place Mercer.
"You have to assume you're going to get a great game from them," Alexander said. "We know that we have to play well to beat anybody. It's as simple as that. You can say they only have two conference wins, but one of them is against the top team in the league, and the other is against Jacksonville, who has been neck and neck with us for a long time. We're not naïve to think that we're going to walk out there and things will go easily."
Kennesaw State features a pair of seniors that are leading the Atlantic Sun in scoring and rebounding. Markeith Cummings is tied atop the scoring ranks at 16.9 points per game, while Aaron Anderson is grabbing a league best 8.6 boards per contest.
"Cummings has proven over the course of his four years that he's as good as anybody in our league, so he obviously deserves a lot of our attention," Alexander said. "He's a real difficult matchup for everybody because of his versatility. Anderson, I have as much respect for as anybody in the league because of his workman-like effort. For him to produce and get rebounds like he does on a consistent basis is really remarkable."
Thursday night's contest is scheduled to tip at 7:15 p.m. at the Edmunds Center, immediately after the Hatter women take on the Owls at 5:00 p.m. The game will be featured on HatterVision, ASun.TV, and the Hatters Radio Network. Robbie Aaron and Ryan Rouse will be on the call. Live Stats, the @StetsonMBB Twitter feed, and Hat-Alerts are also available for in-game updates.