A career high 30 points from senior Willie Green and 53.6 percent shooting from the field wasn’t enough to earn the Stetson men’s basketball team its first win of the 2013-14 season as Davidson spoiled the Hatters home opener with a 86-80 win at the Edmunds Center Saturday afternoon.
“It was a little bit of a disappointment for me,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said after the game. “We had a chance to come home, even though it was against a very good Davidson team, but I thought we would have been a lot better defensively.”
Amidst the program’s most difficult start to the season since the Hatters began 0-10 to open the 2005-06 season, Stetson (0-9) has continued to improve, especially on the offensive end. Against the defending Southern Conference Champion Wildcats (2-5), the Hatters shot 53.6 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from beyond the arc, and poured in 80 points in the game.
“Offensively, we moved the ball,” Williams said. “We scored a lot more points than we had scored in the past. Guys are starting to make shots, starting to get comfortable on the offensive end. Every game we’ve played we’ve gotten better offensively, but the defense has not been up to the level that I want.”
To Williams’ point, the Hatters allowed 54.7 percent shooting to the Wildcats’, 46.7 percent from downtown, and gave up a season high 86 points to Davidson.
“We didn’t contain the ball in the second half,” said Williams. “They shot over 60 percent and you can’t win a basketball game playing like that defensively. We need to make an adjustment, and our guys have to have a level of toughness to be able to compete on the defensive end.”
For the first time this season Stetson led at the half, holding a 36-34 advantage after senior Aaron Graham knocked down a three-pointer from the corner with just 16 seconds remaining. The Hatters led by as many as six points in the opening frame when back-to-back buckets by Green made it 14-8 just less than six minutes into the game.
Green’s 15 first half points on 6-of-8 shooting were only outdone by Davidson’s Jack Gibbs, who came off the bench to pour in 16 on 5-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 from long distance. Gibbs, who entered the game averaging just over six points per tilt, was on fire from beyond the arc and kept the Wildcats in it.
As has been the case much of the season so far, Stetson came out playing well to start the second half. A jumper by redshirt freshman Brian Pegg, and one free throw from junior Kentwan Smith extended the lead to five points, before an 8-3 Davidson run tied the game back up at 42-42 less than three minutes into the second.
Seven straight points from the Hatters – a three-pointer by Green, a tip-in by Pegg, and then another tip-in, this one by Green – gave Stetson its largest lead of the game, a 49-42 advantage with 15:14 to play. Two free throws by Green on the following offensive possession made it a seven-point lead once again, but that’s when Davidson made its run.
The Wildcats used an 8-0 run, highlighted by a four-point play from point guard Brian Sullivan, to take their first lead of the second half. Stetson countered with six straight points, stamped by Pegg’s first triple of the season to regain the lead at 61-57, but Davidson fired back.
Sullivan – who came in averaging over 14 points per game but was shutout by the Hatters in the first half – hit another three, which was followed by three straight layups for the Wildcats. Davidson’s five point advantage, at 68-63 with 7:53 to play, ended up being the run that knocked Stetson off course.
The Hatters couldn’t get things going on the offensive end again until late, and they just could not stop the Wildcats from executing their offense. Davidson extended its lead to as many as 11 before late threes cut the Stetson deficit to just six points as the buzzer sounded.
Green led all players with his career high 30 points. The senior was 11-of-14 from the floor, 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-8 from the free throw line on an all-around great game. He added four rebounds, one assists, one block, two steals, and turned it over just once.
“He’s getting better,” Williams said of Green. “When we got him the ball in his sweet spot, he went and finished. He got us baskets when we needed them. He played tough offensively. Now he needs to take that tenaciousness to the defensive end as well.”
The Hatters put four players in double figures as Pegg and Graham finished with 15 points and senior Raymone Andrews totaled 11. Pegg led Stetson with eight rebounds, while Andrews tallied a team high four assists.
Graham’s 15 points were enough to move the senior over the 1,000 point mark for his career, now with 1,002 as a Stetson Hatters. Graham becomes the 32nd player in Hatter history to record 1,000 or more points.
Davidson was led by Gibbs’ 20 points and put five players in double figures. Tyler Kalinoski scored 14 points, recorded 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds in the victory.
Stetson will stay at home, playing again on Tuesday. The Hatters host cross-county rival Bethune-Cookman at the Edmunds Center at 7:00 p.m.