MIAMI, Fla. – The Stetson men’s basketball team put three players in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to top Florida International as the Panthers defeated the Hatters 75-66 Monday night at the U.S. Century Bank Arena.
Stetson (0-4) was led by senior Willie Green who totaled a season high 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. Seniors Aaron Graham and Raymone Andrews added 15 and 13 to lead the Hatter offense.
FIU (5-2) used an 18-point, seven-assist night from 5-6 point guard Raymond Taylor to earn the team’s fifth straight victory. Jerome Frink added 17, while Dennis Mavin and Tymell Murphy chipped in with 13 and 12, respectively.
The Hatters used a 12-2 run to start the second half to take a 42-39 lead with 14:16 to play when junior Kentwan Smith converted a put back on one of 17 offensive rebounds for Stetson on the night. Smith, Green and redshirt-freshman Brian Pegg each scored four points during the run.
The Panthers countered with six straight points, sealed by a Taylor three-pointer, which gave FIU a 45-42 lead with 10:58 to play. The Panthers never relinquished the lead from that point, extending it to as many as 12 points late in the second half.
“We got in the game but then we made some bone headed plays,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said. “We had control of the game, it was in our favor, and then we needed to take care of the ball and make good plays. We didn’t do that. We settled for jump shots when we should have been driving, and then when we should have been shooting jump shots, we were driving to the basket.”
Unlike their first three games of the season, the Hatters played relatively well in the first half. Stetson was down just 37-30 at the break as 10 offensive boards and just six turnovers kept the Hatters in the game.
Stetson cut the Panther lead to just one point, at 30-29, with 2:48 to play in the first with five points in a matter of five seconds. Freshman B.J. Glasford drove the lane for a bucket before Graham stole the ensuing inbound pass and fired up a three from the corner to counter the Panthers’ recent success.
Unfortunately, a 7-1 run to end the half increased FIU’s lead to seven points at the break.
“When you’re on the road you can’t make many mistakes, because you have no advantage at all,” Williams said. “The crowd is against you, everybody is against you, but you need to find a way to pull through.”
At the start of the first and second half, Stetson made a concerted effort to find post touches. In both instances the Hatters succeeded at either scoring in the post or finding open teammates on the perimeter because of it.
“Willie did a good job of making baskets,” Williams said of Green’s post play. “We wanted to get the ball down low, but we needed other guys to come through as well. We also need to find ways to get baskets in transition. There were a couple times that we had the numbers and we came up empty. Those are things that we need to correct.
“We were in the game, but we just need to learn how to finish it,” Williams went on to say. “We have to make better decisions. We have to understand the value of that basketball. If we do that then we can expand our lead and put the pressure back on them.”
Stetson was never able to expand their small lead in the second half and FIU went on to win by the final score of 75-66.
The Hatters were led by Green, Graham, and Andrews in double figures. Smith finished with a solid game on the stat sheet, scoring seven points, grabbing six boards, handing out three assists, blocking three shots, and picking up two steals. Pegg led the Hatters with eight rebounds.
Taylor’s 18 points, seven assists, and just one turnover hurt Stetson all night. When he wasn’t scoring, or finding teammates for buckets, he was getting the Hatters into foul trouble by making things happen in the paint.
“He ate us up all night because he was able to get into the heart of the defense,” Williams said of Taylor. “We talked about it from the beginning that we needed to contain him, and make him make plays at the basket, but we didn’t do that. He created a lot of offense for his teammates, and his heart was a big factor tonight as it relates to them winning the ball game.”
Stetson will return to action on Friday with its fifth straight road game to start the season. The Hatters will play at USF at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN3.