DeLand, Fla. - Freshman Corey Walden (Ormond Beach, Fla.) finished with career-highs in scoring with 23 points and assists with eight to lead Stetson (4-9, 2-1) to a 76-66 victory over Lipscomb (7-5, 2-1) Monday night in the Edmunds Center. It was a big win for the Hatters who started four freshmen and a sophomore against the top-rated team in the Atlantic Sun Conference that features a pair of seniors who are one-two in scoring and in are in the top three in rebounding.
Stetson won the battle under the boards 39-36 and outscored Lipscomb 26-24 in the paint. The Bisons entered the game leading the conference in offensive and defensive rebounds per game. The Hatters' hustling zone defense held the Bisons to 39.3% (22-of-56) shooting from the floor, well below their 45.6% season average.
Five Hatters scored in double-figures led by Walden's 23. The first-year point guard shot 7-of-13 from the field, 3-for-7 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-7 from the line. Ridge Graham (Stuart, Fla.) and Luis Jacobo (Sanford, Fla.) tallied 14 points each, Joel Naburgs (Victoria, Australia) was a perfect 10-for-10 from the line on the way to 13 points, and Steve Forbes (Clermont, Fla.) equaled his career-high of 10 points. Jacobo's effort equaled his career-high of 14 points in the Hatters' season-opening win at Wake Forest.
After a Josh Slater (Nashville, Tenn.) layup at 17:31 put the visitors up by six points early in the second half, the Walden-led Hatters flipped a switch took control of the game. Walden exploded for 12 points in a 13-0 run that put Stetson up 35-28 with 13:24 remaining. Lipscomb's Jordan Burgason (Ames, Iowa) hit a three to briefly slow momentum, yet Walden was not done. On the next possession he picked up his dribble at the top of the key put a fake on Robert Boyd that launched the Knoxville, Tennessee native in the air. Walden then leaned in creating contact and simultaneously buried an off balance jumper. After the ensuing free throw the Hatters were back up by seven at 38-31.
"I thought Corey made some huge shots tonight and Joel, coming out after being injured in practice made some big plays in his own right", said Stetson head coach Derek Waugh.
After a brief Hatter cold spell from the field later in the half the Bisons were able to come back and take a one point lead 51-50 with 5:22 on the clock. Jacobo, however quickly followed with a three pointer and Stetson was off and running once again. After a Ridge Graham layup increased the lead to 62-55 with 1:48 remaining Lipscomb was forced into a foul-and-shoot strategy that backfired when Stetson hit 11-of-13 free throws coming down the stretch. Narburgs alone was 8-for-8 from the line in the second half.
"The guys just stepped up in the second half, made some aggressive plays, and made some shots", said Waugh. "Our leadership and our effort was at a higher level than it has been."
The first half featured unusually poor shooting at both ends of the floor. Stetson was 7-of-28 (25%) from the floor and 1-for-9 (11.1%) from 3-point range. Having a difficult time with Stetson's zone defense Lipscomb was not much better totaling 7-of-25 (28%) from the floor and 1-for-11 (9.1%) from long range.
"They [Lipscomb] are a very good team and are the favorite to win our league. This win should do a lot for our confidence", added Waugh.
Next up the Hatters will host Belmont on Wednesday, January 5. Stetson fans can hear the games on Hatter Vision with 17-year veterans Murray Miller and Harry Arnold calling the action. Also be sure to follow the Hatters on Twitter at @StetsonSID (twitter.com/stetsonsid), "like" Stetson Athletics on Facebook and check out the official YouTube channel at youtube.com/stetsonhatters.