FORT MYERS, Fla. – Junior Kentwan Smith scored 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and picked up five steals, but it wasn’t enough as the Stetson men’s basketball team fell to Florida Gulf Coast 71-68 on a late-game three at Alico Arena Friday night.
“Our guys competed the entire game,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said after the game. “I thought the effort was good, we really fought, and we were in the ball game. Their guy had to make a tough shot, you tip your hat off to them, and you move on.”
With Stetson (6-16, 4-6) leading scorer Willie Green unsuccessful from the field in the first half, and fellow frontcourt mate Brian Pegg saddled with foul trouble throughout the contest, Smith took his game to another level, connecting on 8-of-12 shots from the field, recording his first double-double as a Hatter, and swiping a career high five steals.
Smith was integral in the Hatters’ comeback late in the first half, scoring Stetson’s final seven points of the frame to cut FGCU’s advantage to just 36-31 at the break. The Eagles had led by 11 points with just 5:42 to play in the frame and by as many as 15 earlier in the period.
Green, who went just 1-of-10 from the field in the first half, began contributing by finishing on a number of his seven offensive rebounds in the game. His put-back layup with 12:05 to play in the game ignited an 8-0 run by the Hatters, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers by seniors Aaron Graham and Raymone Andrews, that gave Stetson a 54-49 lead at the midway point of the second.
FGCU (14-9, 8-2) countered with eight straight points of its own, including back-to-back driving layups by point guard Brett Comer to give the Eagles the advantage once again, at 57-54.
The Hatters never led again, but a seven-point run bookended by a Smith triple and another tip-in by Green tied the game one final time, at 68-68, with just 22 seconds to play.
The Eagles had one possession of heroics left in them as they waited until the final moments to take their chance at victory. Comer drove the wing and found a heavily guard Bernard Thompson on the wing as the clock clicked towards zero. Graham was tight on the FGCU guard, whose off-balance three rattled in with just two seconds to play.
Stetson’s final attempt at a full court buzzer beater was intercepted and the Eagles came away with the 71-68 home victory.
“For us as a basketball team, we can build off of this,” Williams said. “We’re certainly getting better.”
Smith led the way with the second 20-point outing of his career, a career-best tying 10 rebounds, and five steals that led to a number of transition buckets for the Hatters. Green finished with 16 points going a perfect 6-of-6 from the field in the second half. Graham and Andrews chipped in with 13 and 10, respectively.
Thompson led FGCU with 17 points on three makes from beyond the arc, including the game-winner. Chase Fieler added 15, while Comer and Jamail Jones chipped in with 13 apiece. Fieler also added a game-high 14 boards in the win.
Stetson will continue regular season action next weekend, hosting North Florida and Jacksonville at the Edmunds Center. The Hatters welcome the Ospreys to DeLand Thursday at 7:00 p.m.