ESTERO, Fla. – Stetson men’s basketball senior Aaron Graham became the all-time leader in career three-pointers on Tuesday as the Hatters dropped their second game of the Gulf Coast Showcase, falling to Southern Illinois 67-48 at Germain Arena.
Graham led Stetson with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting and two makes from beyond the arc. His second, a swish from the corner in the final seconds of the first half, gave Graham 181 triples in his four seasons as a Hatter. The guard broke former teammate Joel Naburgs’ record of 180.
“That’s an awesome accomplishment for him,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said regarding Graham’s record. “He’s obviously done it over a long period of time. To have the results he has had, and to accomplish what he’s accomplished from the three-point line, is very good for any player. I tip my hat off to him, because he’s done a lot for this university.”
Graham scored 13 of his team high 17 points in the first 20 minutes, keeping the Hatters in the game against the Salukis. Stetson led by as many as five points early in the game when senior Raymone Andrews knocked down a pull-up jumper to make it 13-9 with 13:59 to play in the first frame.
After Graham’s first three put the Hatters up 16-13 with 9:05 remaining in the first, SIU slowly but surely used a 17-6 run to take a healthy 30-22 lead with less than two minutes to play in the period. Graham’s record-breaking three from the corner cut the deficit to just five at the break, at 32-27, but that’s as close as the Hatters would get the rest of the way.
With quality outings the last three games, Stetson made an effort to find senior forward Willie Green in the post all night long. When SIU wasn’t preventing the Hatters from even entering the ball to Green on the block, the Salukis were converging on him and not allowing him to get into any offensive rhythm. Green finished with just five points on 1-of-7 shooting.
“We tried to get it to him, but they were making it difficult for him,” Williams said of Green. “I think he got frustrated as well. That’s something we have to look at. We have to be sure he understands how important it is for him to touch the ball.”
Other than Graham and Andrews, who totaled 12 points on the afternoon, Stetson wasn’t able to get anything going offensively against the Salukis. The Hatters shot just 30.9 percent from the floor and 16.0 percent from beyond the arc.
“Man, we just can’t make any baskets,” Williams said. “We have guys who can shoot the basketball, but they’re not shooting with confidence. Players make shots. They made shots and we didn’t. That was the difference in the game.”
SIU, meanwhile, had success when given opportunities. The Salukis shot 41.5 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from long distance. Anthony Beane led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 from downtown.
“In the first half we played pretty good, but in the second half we let it get away again,” said Williams. “We came out sluggish in the second half. I thought we were ready to go and we ended up stubbing our toe a little bit. SIU got the lead and made it very difficult for us to come back.”
SIU extended its lead to 19 on two occasions in the second half, including the final minute when the Salukis took a 67-48 advantage at the final buzzer. SIU improved to 2-4 on the season with the victory, while Stetson falls to 0-7 on the year.
The Hatters will finish out play at the Gulf Coast Showcase with a matchup against UNCG on Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. The game can be heard live on WSBB AM 1230, AM 1490, and online at MyAM1230.com.
“We have to somehow find the energy,” said Williams about Wednesday’s third game in three days.. “I keep pressing this point to our guys; the toughest team wins the game. If you don’t fight with any toughness guys will take advantage of you, and Southern Illinois certainly did that.”