In a high-scoring, fast-paced game that had a flavor of postseason play, Stetson nailed down its first win of the season Friday with a 84-77 victory over host Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the Preseason WNIT at the William H. Johnson Coliseum.
Sasha Sims led five Hatters in double figures with 23 points as Stetson (1-1) advances to play North Carolina A&T at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
"I thought we were better from our last game," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "If we get better every game, we are going to be OK. We rebounded the ball much better and we just had a lot more effort on the glass. I thought we did a great a job of only giving them one shot."
After leading by five at halftime and extending the advantage to as many as 13 in the second half, Stetson survived a late Ladyjacks (0-2) run that cut the deficit to one on two separate occasions. With just under five minutes to play, Cherisse Burris converted a lay-up after a drive through the lane to put Stetson ahead 72-69. Burris also added two free throws to build the lead back to five, but Stephen Austin rallied again, pulling within one point on a Tierney Henderson lay-up with 2:41 to play.
After a pair of C.J. Coddington free throws gave the Hatters a 76-73 advantage, the Ladyjacks had three opportunities to tie the game, but defensive rebounds by Sims, Burris, and Brianti Saunders helped preserve the lead. Following a Stetson timeout with under a minute to play, Coddington threw an inbounds pass that Burris converted into a lay-up and the Hatters held on for the victory.
"Stephen F. Austin came back and cut the lead and we could have folded, but we made some plays down the stretch and I was really proud of our kids," Bria said.
Sims went 9-for-14 from the field and added eight rebounds and two blocks to her game-high 23 points.
"I thought Sasha put two great halves together," Bria said. "She took the ball to the basket and took great shots, and she tried to create shots for her teammates, too. She had a very good defensive effort as well and had some key blocks down the stretch."
Jama Sharp scored 14 points and added a career-high 10 assists for her second career double-double. Burris (13 points), Amber Porter (12 points), and Saunders (10 points) also reached double figures for the Hatters.
Stetson shot 45.8 percent from the floor and went to the free throw line 39 times, connecting on 26 attempts. The Hatters outrebounded the Ladyjacks 47-33.
Notes: Amber Porter made her first career start and had six points, two rebounds, and a block in the first 1:44 of the game. All 12 of her points came in the first half ... Sims went over 20 points for the 11th time in her career.