The Stetson men's basketball team (14-14, 11-6) won its fourth straight game, and improved to 11-6 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, defeating Kennesaw State (3-26, 2-15) by a score of 91-77 on Thursday night at the Edmunds Center.
The Hatters shot a season-best 70.6 percent (12-of-17) from beyond the arc, and were 54.0 percent (27-of-50) from the floor, en route to their highest point total of the season. Stetson also outscored the Owls 25-6 from the free throw line to secure its 11th league victory, which is five more than the Hatters recorded a year ago.
"It was tougher than we wanted it to be, that's for sure," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said. "I give Kennesaw a lot of credit for that. I think they played well. I think they played with a lot of fight all night. I'm proud of [our guys] for hanging with it, showing some resilience, and getting the double figure win at home."
Senior Adam Pegg opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key just 15 seconds into the game, and the hot shooting from the Hatters only continued from there. Stetson used a 16-0 run to turn an 8-11 deficit into a 24-11 advantage with 10:43 to play in the first half. Junior Aaron Graham scored seven points on a three, a two, and two free throws to highlight the run.
The Hatters extended their lead to as many as 18 points, at 34-16 when two free throws from junior Chris Perez capped a 26-5 stretch for Stetson. A long two-point jumper by Nigel Pruitt ended the Hatter run, and ignited a 9-2 stretch for the Owls that cut the Stetson lead back to 36-25 with 5:10 to play in the first.
Neither team was able to make any traction in the final few minutes, as Stetson went into the break with a 48-35 lead over the Owls. Thanks to 56.0 percent shooting, and 77.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc, Stetson tied its highest first half offensive output of the season.
After a driving layin by Perez to start the second half, Kennesaw State took the advantage. The Owls scored 11 straight points early in the period to cut the Hatter lead to 53-48 on Delbert Love's second of five second half three-pointers.
The Owls got as close as two points, at 55-53 with 12:14 to play, before Stetson used a 13-3 run to take a double digit lead once again. The Hatters made it 68-56 on a triple by senior Joel Naburgs, but Kennesaw State just wouldn't go away.
A long two-point jumper by Yonel Brown cut the Hatter lead to just five points, at 78-73, with 3:35 to play in the game. That's when a tough post bucket by Pegg ignited one final run for Stetson. The Hatters scored eight straight points, including two from Naburgs on one of many back door layups for Stetson on the night, to go back up by double figures and cruise to the 91-77 victory.
Graham led the Hatters with a season high 24 points, just two off of his career best. The guard went 6-for-12 from the floor, 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, while grabbing six rebounds and handing out four assists.
Pegg and Perez added 19 points and 18 points, respectively. The former added a team high seven rebounds. Naburgs finished with 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range. He and junior Willie Green matched Graham with a team high four assists.
Love led the Owls with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Aaron Anderson added 17 points and Markeith Cummings chipped in with 13. Anderson added a game high eight rebounds in the defeat.
Stetson will finish out the regular season on Saturday against first place Mercer. The Bears, who fell to Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night, will challenge the Hatters at 3:15 p.m. at the Edmunds Center. The game can be watched on HatterVision, and heard on the Hatters Radio Network, with Robbie Aaron on the call.