There would be no second half letdown for the Hatters on Thursday night.
Behind a game-high 24 points from senior Sasha Sims, Stetson earned its first Atlantic Sun Conference victory of the season with a 78-64 win over visiting USC Upstate. The Hatters (9-5, 1-1 A-Sun) also improved to 6-0 at home and won for the 24th time in their last 25 games at the Edmunds Center.
Stetson, which saw a seven-point halftime lead slip away against FGCU last Saturday, opened the second half Thursday on a 29-10 run to pull away from the Spartans (6-8, 1-2).
"I thought the effort in the second half was very, very good," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "I was really pleased overall with our effort in this game."
The Hatters led by just three points at halftime, but Amber Porter's lay-up at the 16:00 mark gave Stetson some breathing room at 47-40. A few minutes later, Myeisha Hall knocked down a three-pointer to increase Stetson's lead to 60-46. After Shelby Hicks got the Spartans back to within 12, a 10-0 Stetson run gave the Hatters their biggest lead of the night at 70-48. Sims hit a three-pointer and Saunders converted a fastbreak layup during that critical stretch.
"It's always good to have a cushion, instead of making it a couple possession game," Sims said. "We just emphasized executing at a high level and doing what we do best. When we needed stops, we got those stops, and then converted those stops into points."
USC Upstate cut the deficit to 12 late but would pull no closer.
Hall came off the bench to record her first double-double as a Hatter with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nine of her rebounds came on the defensive end, and she hit two of the team's six three-pointers while playing 30 minutes.
"I was focused on getting rebounds because that was our emphasis for the game," Hall said. "I really wasn't focused on the minutes. The key was the win, so I just tried to do whatever I could."
With post players Cherisse Burris and Porter in foul trouble for much of the first half, Bria was pleased to get the strong performance from Hall.
"Myeisha keeps getting better and better every game," Bria said. "She just needs game time. She hasn't played in over a year, so every minute she logs in the game is good. She is rebounding, she is scoring for us, and she is playing good defense. I really like what she is doing right now."
Also scoring in double figures for the Hatters was Brianti Saunders (14 points), C.J. Coddington (11 points), and Porter (10 points). Saunders also grabbed nine rebounds while Jama Sharp dished out eight assists.
"Jama did a really good job of quarterbacking the team and finding the open man," Bria said. "She had a great pass to (Saunders) in transition, and a lot of good passes (overall). We are usually at our best when Jama is distributing the basketball."
Stetson shot 52% from the floor, led by Sims's 7-for-11 shooting performance. USC Upstate connected on 44% of its shots in first half, but was held to just 23% shooting in the second half.
"I thought we were giving up too many points in the paint (in the first half)," Bria said. "In the second half we collapsed on their post a lot better and I thought it was very effective. We got the ball out of the paint more. We got their field goal percentage down which is what we needed to do."
Stetson will return to the court on Saturday to host ETSU. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Notes: Stetson has had five (or more) players score in double figures eight times this season (team is 8-0 in those games) ... Stetson is 9-0 overall when scoring 70 points or more ... Sasha Sims moved from eighth to sixth on Stetson's all-time scoring list (1380 career points). She is also two blocks shy of the school record for career blocks.