ORLANDO, Fla. – The Stetson men’s basketball team trailed by just five points at halftime, but eventually fell by a score of 77-58 at UCF on Saturday night at the CFE Arena.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said after the game. “In the first we played five guards, they made some shots, they competed pretty tough, and they kept us in the ballgame. In the second half we let them get on a big run and the game got away from us.”
With leading scorer Willie Green out of the game with two fouls for the final 17 minutes of the first half, the Hatters had to find offense from others to keep up with the Knights. Senior Raymone Andrews stepped up, scoring 11 straight Stetson points during a 14-4 run that cut the UCF lead to just three points, at 36-33, late in the opening frame.
“He put the guys on his shoulders and he carried them in the first half,” Williams said of Andrews. “He did a terrific job in the first half. He’s one of our leaders, and he’s one of the guys that we depend on.”
It was the guard-heavy lineup that Williams alluded to that allowed the Hatters to hold UCF to just 10 points in the final 7:40 of the first half. Williams went with five players 6-4 and under, using a swarming defense and plenty of dribble penetration on offense, to climb back into the game late in the first.
“We’ve never really played that lineup, and they did a fantastic job of causing a lot of havoc,” said Williams. “They played tough, they competed, they shrunk gaps, and they did a good job of forcing UCF to take tough shots.”
UCF used a 60.9 percent field goal percentage in the first half to hold a 39-34 advantage at the break. Stetson shot 50.0 percent from the floor in the first, made 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, and turned the Knights over 11 times.
Stetson continued to compete with the Knights in the second half, cutting the UCF lead to just three points on a three-pointer by senior Aaron Graham – his fourth of the night – and a free throw by junior Kyle Sikora. The Hatters trailed just 47-44 with 14:15 to play.
That was when Stetson allowed UCF to score 14 straight points and take a 61-44 lead with 9:40 to play. “We weren’t able to come back from it,” Williams said of UCF’s big run. “We weren’t able to stop the bleeding.”
The Hatters got as close as 12 points when senior Hunter Miller knocked one down from beyond the arc, but UCF cruised to the 77-58 victory in Orlando.
“I always remind our guys that we’re a pretty good team when we play well,” Williams concluded. “We haven’t played 40 minutes, but that’s okay, because I know it is coming. UCF is a good basketball team. They’re going to beat a lot of people, so this isn’t a game that our guys should have their heads hanging down.”
Stetson put three players in double figures with redshirt-freshman Brian Pegg leading the way with 13. Andrews and Graham each finished with 12 points on the night.
The Hatters struggled on the glass as UCF out-rebounded Stetson 41-24. It was also difficult to hit free throws on Saturday night. The Knights won that battle with 16-of-29 (55.2%)) from the stripe. Stetson was a dismal 11-of-22 (50.0%).
UCF was led by Tristan Spurlock, who went for 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Isaiah Sykes added 17 points, Calvin Newell poured in 13, and Brandon Goodwin totaled 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Stetson will return home on Dec. 17 for the final non-conference game before beginning Atlantic Sun Conference play. The Hatters host Florida Atlantic at 7:30 p.m. at the Edmunds Center.