The Stetson men’s basketball team gave defending Atlantic Sun Conference champions Florida Gulf Coast all they could handle for 35 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles defeated the Hatters 68-55 on Sunday at the Edmunds Center.
Stetson (3-12, 1-2) trailed by just three points when a basket by senior Willie Green made it 50-47 in favor of the Eagles with just 5:06 to play in the game. Five straight points by FGCU (9-7, 3-0) extended the lead back to eight points, and the Eagles were able to hold the Hatters off for the double digit victory.
“Florida Gulf Coast is a good basketball team with some good leadership,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said after the game. “They have guys who have been there and done that as it relates to winning basketball games, and they came out and played as such.
“I thought our guys’ effort for the most part was a very good effort,” Williams went on to say. “We made Florida Gulf Coast have to hit some crucial shots at very important times of the game, and they did, like they have shown to in the past.”
The Hatters were able to stay with the team predicted to win the A-Sun again this season thanks in large part to the offense of Green. Stetson’s leading scorer poured in a game high 24 points on 9-of-18 from the floor, including a number of thunderous dunks. Green added four rebounds and three blocks in the defeat.
The Eagles’ balanced attack, which included four players in double figures and a fifth with nine points, combined with a terrific rebounding effort, led FGCU to its third straight win to start league play.
Eric McKnight and Bernard Thompson led the way with 14 points each, while Filip Cvjeticanin, Chase Fieler, and Jamail Jones added 11, 10, and nine, respectively. Leading scorer Brett Comer was held scoreless by the Hatters, but contributed with eight assists and six rebounds in the victory.
The Hatters were unable to keep the Eagles off the glass all game, allowing 18 offensive rebounds, four of which came from Fieler. FGCU outrebounded Stetson 44-28 overall on the day.
“The thing that stands out to be glaring to me is how many offensive rebounds we let them have and the defensive rebound disparity,” said Williams. “Those are the things I was disappointed in, but I thought our effort was good.”
The two teams came in as two of the top defenses in the league and that showed on Sunday with a low scoring affair. FGCU finished shooting 40.3 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from beyond the arc. The Hatters were 38.5 percent from the floor and just 16.7 percent from three-point range.
The Eagles went 7-of-22 from long distance, including a pair of clutch triples from Fieler and Thompson in the final five minutes of play. The Hatters went just 3-of-18 from deep and were merely 1-of-13 in the second half.
Stetson was paced by Green’s 24 points, while senior Aaron Graham, junior Kentwan Smith, and redshirt-freshman Brian Pegg each chipped in with eight points. Pegg led the Hatters with eight rebounds, while senior Raymone Andrews led the way with six assists in the defeat.
The Hatters will continue conference action next weekend. Stetson travels to Jacksonville on Thursday, and then returns to the River City to take on North Florida on Saturday. Both games will be featured on ASun.TV and WSBB.