With the opportunity to clinch a spot in the upcoming Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, the Stetson men’s basketball team faltered at home to visiting Kennesaw State by a score of 67-63 on Friday night at the Edmunds Center.
“It was a disappointing game today,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said after the loss. “Kennesaw was the tougher team. They played like they wanted to win the basketball game. I think the result speaks for itself.”
Junior Kentwan Smith kept the Hatters (7-20, 5-10 A-Sun) in the game in the first half, scoring 15 of his game high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor over the first 20 minutes of action. The forward was dominant down low as the only effect Stetson player on offense.
“If it wasn’t for Kentwan we wouldn’t have been in the game in the first half,” said Williams. “He carried us. He was aggressive. We need that consistency out of him.”
“I was just aggressive in attacking because Willie [Green] was in foul trouble,” Smith said. “Whenever I saw the lane I just tried to go hard to the basket and finish.”
Kennesaw State (6-22, 3-12 A-Sun) used a 10-point first half from Orlando Coleman and a strong defensive effort to head into the break with a 30-26 advantage. The Owls held Stetson to 37.9 percent shooting, but hit on only 36.0 percent of their own shots in the first frame.
After the Owls extended their lead to seven points, at 40-33, with 14:18 to play, Stetson used an 11-3 run midway through the period to take its first lead since the 12:22 mark of the first half. It was a layup by Smith that made it 44-43 in favor of the Hatters with just 9:41 to play.
The two teams traded baskets for much of the remaining time in the second half until a back-door alley oop from Yonel Brown to Orlando Coleman was followed up by two free throws by Brown that gave Kennesaw State a five-point advantage, at 63-58, with just 41 second left to play.
A step back fade away three by senior Aaron Graham brought the Hatters within two, and after two more free throws by Delbert Love, a put-back from redshirt-freshman Brian Pegg made it a two-point deficit once again for the Hatters.
Two more from the strip by Brown sealed the 67-63 victory for the Owls, their first on the road during A-Sun play.
“Any time they needed a big basket their guys stepped up and made big plays,” Williams said. “When we needed them we didn’t step up and make big plays. When you don’t do that, this is what can happen.”
Kennesaw State shot 60.0 percent from the floor in the second half, finishing with a 46.7 mark for the game. The Owls were 6-of-15 from beyond the arc, while the Hatters finished just 3-of-14 with all three coming from Graham.
Stetson finished the game with just eight assists on 23 baskets. Senior Raymone Andrews totaled five of the eight before fouling out. The Hatters forced 17 KSU turnovers, but turned them into only 16 points.
Smith’s 19 led the Hatters while Pegg added 14 points and a game high eight rebounds. Graham chipped in with 13, and leading scorer senior Willie Green was held under 10 points for the first time in 11 outings with nine.
Coleman led the Owls with 18, Love finished with 16, and Nate Rucker totaled 11. Brown led all players with seven assists.
Stetson will play its final regular season home game of the season on Sunday, hosting Mercer at 1:00 p.m. on Senior Day.