A decisive 14-0 run midway through the second half lifted visiting Stetson to a 77-63 victory over Bethune-Cookman Wednesday night at Moore Gymnasium.
Sasha Sims scored a career-high 28 points while freshmen Brianti Saunders (18 points) and Amber Porter (16 points) registered career-high point totals of their own as the Hatters (3-2) won their third straight game over their county rival.
Stetson also completed a busy stretch of four games in six days with a 3-1 mark.
"We look so much better than we did even a week ago," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "I am very pleased with our progress. Honestly, I am pleasantly surprised. We have come along a little further than where I thought we would be at this point and time. However, our main goal is to be a good team in January and February, and we just have to keep improving."
A seesaw contest that featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes saw Bethune-Cookman holding a 51-49 lead at the 11:56 mark of the second half. Following a media timeout, Bria switched her defense to a 1-3-1 zone, and the Hatters began to take off.
"I thought in the second half we played with a lot more energy," Bria said. "About midway through the second half we got them to turn it over a couple of times, and we got some easy baskets and it really got us going."
While Stetson held the Lady Wildcats (1-3) scoreless over the next eight minutes, the Hatters vaulted into the lead. Saunders put Stetson ahead with a three-pointer from the left corner, and Sims followed with a seven-foot jumper after driving into the lane. A minute later Porter converted a three-point play to give Stetson a 57-51 lead. The run continued as Cherisse Burris followed a missed free throw with an offensive rebound and bucket, then Porter cashed in for an easy lay-up after a nice pass from Saunders. Burris capped the run with a lay-up after a strong back-door pass from Jama Sharp.
"I think our biggest issue coming out of halftime was playing together as a team," Sims said. "We had to pick up our intensity as well as our defense. It wasn't as tight as it normally is."
The Hatters held off the Lady Wildcats down the stretch to post their second win in three days. The Hatters have scored 167 points over that stretch, and Sims has tallied 52 of those on her own.
"She is playing at a really high level," Bria said of Sims. "For the first time she is using everything in her cupbord. She is using all of her weapons, and she has a lot of them. She can shoot the three, she can put the ball on the ground, she can guard the perimeter, she can guard the post, and it's really a lot of fun to watch."
Sims was aided by the freshmen duo of Saunders, who hit four three-pointers and grabbed nine rebounds, and Porter, who was 7-for-11 from the field with five rebounds and two blocks.
"I thought Amber Porter was very effective in the second half," Bria said. "She posted stronger, made some big plays, got us a couple of easy baskets when we looked for her inside. (Brianti) was effective the whole game. She and Sasha carried us in the first half. She rebounds for us, she shoots the three, she guards, and she doesn't play like a freshman at all. She can sustain a 40 minute game."
The Hatters shot 45% for the game and outrebounded Bethune-Cookman 43-34. Chastity Rene Taylor led Bethune-Cookman with 21 points. Burris grabbed 11 rebounds for the Hatters.
Stetson return to the court on Nov. 29 in Tallahassee as the Hatters will take on the Florida State Seminoles. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Sasha Sims moved into the top 50 all-time scorers in Atlantic Sun history. She now ranks 13th in Stetson history (1230 points) ... Freshmen DeAsia Beal and Brianti Saunders "wowed" the B-CU crowd with nifty ball-handling maneuvers in the first half ... The Hatters outscored B-CU 36-14 in the paint.