RICHMOND, Va. - The Stetson men's basketball team (2-7) fell to Richmond (9-2) on Saturday evening at the Robins Center by a score of 76-57. Junior Chris Perez led the Hatters with 17 points in the defeat.
"I honestly believe that our team is much better than what we're getting in results," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said after the game. "As soon as we realize it, collectively - that we're right there - then we'll get through it."
And the Hatters were right there, literally, up until there were just seven and a half minutes remaining. Trailing 54-49, Stetson allowed the Spiders, who remain undefeated at home, to use a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 14 points at 63-49 with 5:53 to play.
Richmond, now out to its best start in 25 years at 9-2, increased the lead to as many as 22 points, but a three-pointer by Stetson's Tanner Plemmons made the final score 76-57 in Richmond.
The Hatters dug themselves into a hole early, falling behind 9-1 before the first media timeout. Stetson quickly countered, though, using an 8-2 stretch to cut the Spider lead to just two, at 11-9, with 11:07 to play in the first. Perez scored a pair of buckets during the run to ignite the Hatters.
The two teams fought back and forth for a while, and Stetson finally tied the game for the first time since the tip when jumpers by juniors Willie Green and Aaron Graham preceded a Perez free throw to make it 19-19 with 5:10 to play.
It was Perez once again getting it done as the period came to a close, driving the lane, and finishing off the glass as the buzzer sounded to keep Stetson within three (28-25) at the break.
Stetson came out strong in the second half as back-to-back dunks by Green - the first of which was of the tip variety - gave Stetson its first lead of the game at 29-28 less than a minute into the frame. A layup in the post by senior Adam Pegg gave the Hatters a three-point lead before Richmond big man Derrick Williams snapped the Stetson run.
The Spiders again grabbed the momentum, slowly getting back out to an eight point lead, at 47-39, behind five straight points from Kendall Anthony and a fast break layup by Darien Brothers. Stetson got as close as four points thanks to a triple from Graham, as well as a jumper and free throw by Perez, but just over a minute later was when the Spiders went on their run to close out the game.
"[The guys] executed the game plan really well, especially the first 25 to 30 minutes of the game," Alexander said. "Offensively, we were doing something that we hadn't done all year, and we had great shots all night. We didn't make a lot of them, but we got a lot of layups and a lot of great cuts to the basket. I'm proud of them for really taking what we gave them and really making it work."
Perez led the Hatters with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. Pegg added 10 points and four rebounds while dealing with foul trouble most of the first half. Green and Graham chipped in with nine points each. The former led Stetson with six rebounds, while senior Joel Naburgs led the squad with a season-best six assists.
Richmond was led by Williams with 21 points and eight rebounds. Anthony added 18 points off the bench, and Brothers chipped in with 16 on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. The Spiders used 10 steals and 42.9 percent shooting from three-point range to top the Hatters.
Stetson will next continue the road trip with a pair of games in Florida. The Hatters take on Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton on Tuesday, Dec. 18, and then challenge UCF on Thursday, Dec. 20.