ESTERO, Fla. – The Stetson men’s basketball team shot just 36.8 percent from the field in an 81-64 opening round loss to Wagner at the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase Monday at the Germain Arena. Senior Willie Green led the Hatters for the third straight game, scoring 15 points in the defeat.
“Well I was disappointed from the beginning with how our guys played,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said. “We had our moments when we got back in the game, and then all of the sudden it snow-balled and they had a big lead. We still don’t understand how important it is to play hard on every possession. That’s something that has to change.”
The Hatters (0-6) opened up the game well enough, holding the lead through much of the first seven minutes, but a 12-2 run put the Seahawks (4-2) up 19-10 with just under nine minutes to play in the first half.
Stetson used a 10-0 stretch ignited by a putback layup from junior Kentwan Smith and concluding with a transition three-pointer by freshman Glenn Baral to take a 25-24 lead late in the first half. That was when the Hatter offense stalled as Wagner outscored Stetson 9-3 to end the frame, taking a 33-28 lead into the break.
Back-to-back layups by senior Raymone Andrews brought Stetson right back in it to start the second half, and a spectacular driving dunk by Smith cut the Seahawk lead to just one point on two occasions, before Wagner extended its lead to nine on a three by Latif Rivers.
The threes, specifically a number of deep threes, hurt the Hatters all night long. Wagner went 10-of-22 from beyond the arc as Rivers and Jay Harris each knocked down a trio of triples, and Dwaun Anderson and Marcus Burton hit two each.
“That’s very tough to guard,” Williams said of the Seahawks’ deep shooting. “They have four perimeter guys who can really light you up if you don’t get out there and contest, and then all of the sudden they get opportunities to drive in the lane and kick out. They did a great job of finding each other, and it put a lot of pressure on our defense.”
The Hatters didn’t quit then though. Stetson cut into the Wagner lead with some threes of its own, including two within two minutes of each other by senior Aaron Graham. Graham’s second cut the Seahawk lead to just one point, at 55-54, with 10:37 to play.
Again the Hatters weren’t able to finish the game out, allowing Wagner to outscore them 26-10 throughout the rest of the contest. The Seahawks led by as many as 20 points en route to the 81-64 victory.
Green led the Hatters with his 15 points, and he added five rebounds, one block, and two steals in the loss. Smith added 11 points and a team high six boards, while Graham and Andrews each finished with eight points.
Rivers led all scorers with 17 points on his three triples as Wagner put four players in double figures. Anderson and Burton totaled 12 points, while Harris chipped in with 11. The Seahawks’ Naofall Folahan led all players with 11 rebounds and seven blocks.
“We have to keep learning from all of these games, and understand the intensity that we need to play with,” Williams concluded. “The good news is that we play again at 2:30 tomorrow. We have a chance to redeem ourselves. That’s the thing that’s great about basketball.”
Wagner moves on to play the winner of the St. Bonaventure/Southern Illinois game on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. Stetson will take on the loser of that matchup at 2:30 p.m. at Germain Arena. All of the coverage can be heard on WSBB AM 1230 and AM 1490, and online at MyAM1230.com.
Note: Aaron Graham is now just two three-pointers shy of holding the all-time record at Stetson for career threes made. He had 179 in his career, one shy of Joel Naburgs' record of 180.