FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Stetson men's basketball team (9-11, 6-3) fell behind early and lost to Florida Gulf Coast (14-8, 6-3) by a score of 96-65 on the road Friday night. Junior Chris Perez scored 21 points and senior Adam Pegg recorded his third double-double of the season to lead the Hatters in the defeat.
"They came out on a mission," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said of the Eagles. "We were prepared for it, but we didn't respond to it, and that's the disappointing thing. There are going to be runs in every game, and sometimes when it's after the opening tip, it's a real challenge to settle yourself down. We never did."
FGCU opened the scoring with a three-pointer by Chase Fieler, and the Eagles were off to the races from there. Stetson fell behind by eight points, at 12-4, through three minutes, before making what ended up as its only true run to get into the game.
A bucket in the paint by Pegg, followed by threes from Perez and junior Aaron Graham were part of an 8-3 run that cut the FGCU lead to just three points, at 15-12, with 13:43 to play in the period. The Eagles then used an 18-4 run that stretched over a seven minute period to take a 33-16 lead that would prove to be too much for the Hatters to overcome.
It was a first half that the Hatters would like to forget. Stetson turned the ball over 15 times, which gave way to 19 FGCU points in the period. The Eagles shot 60 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc to take a 48-29 lead at the break.
"Miserably bad early," Alexander said of Stetson's handling of the ball. "and for no reason. There wasn't anything that they did that was unplanned for, un-practiced for, and we just threw the ball away. What we talked about before the game was being really solid, and really tough. [We] couldn't have been farther from than that."
Unfortunately for Stetson, the second half wasn't much different. Beginning with a jumper by Brett Comer, FGCU extended its lead to 29 points, at 65-36, less than five minutes into the frame. The Hatters never got closer than 27 points from that point on as the Eagles cruised to the 96-65 victory.
"I have to give them a lot of credit," Alexander said of FGCU. "It was remarkable the difference in their mentality on both ends of the floor compared to ours. When you're playing with great effort, and energy, and togetherness, it's amazing how the shots fall better for you. It's amazing how the long rebounds bounce your way more often, and the loose balls, and the lucky plays, and everything else. It's mainly because you earn it. That's why they deserve the credit."
Stetson finished with 21 turnovers, its second highest total on the season, and shot just 5-of-24 from beyond the arc. FGCU, on the other hand, totaled 12 steals, 31 points off of turnovers, and shot 58.7 percent from the floor to earn the victory.
Perez's 21 points were a team high, but his seven turnovers were as well. Pegg finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. It marked the 15th straight game that the Stetson center recorded double digit points.
Sherwood Brown led the Eagles with 21 points of his own, going over the 1,000 point mark in his career during the contest. Four other FGCU players finished in double figures, including Fieler, who finished with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
"The only thing that can make this worse is if we don't learn from it and let it make us a better team," Alexander concluded. "If we show up for practice on Sunday, just assuming that things are going to get better because we're out there then we're very wrong. We do have to regroup. We do have to channel our energy in the right direction, be more committed to being good, and know that that's what gives us a chance to win."
Stetson will next play at Jacksonville on Thursday, Jan. 31. The Hatters and the Dolphins are scheduled to tip off at 7:00 p.m. with coverage on ASun.TV, HatterVision, and WSBB.