Spartanburg, S.C. - Ridge Graham (Stuart, Fla.) scored 19 points while freshman Corey Walden (Ormond Beach, Fla.) added 18 points and equaled his career-high of eight assists to lead Stetson (5-10, 3-2) to a 74-71 victory over USC Upstate (2-13, 1-4) Saturday afternoon in Spartanburg, South Carolina. As a team the Hatters shot a season-high 60% (30-for-50) from the field and outscored the Spartans 46-22 in the paint.
As it did in a recent win over Lipscomb, Stetson came through with some key free throws coming down the stretch to secure the win. After Upstate's Josh Chavez buried a 3-pointer to reduce his team's deficit to one point at 69-68 with 1:17 left in the game, Walden responded with a layup at the other end and an important free throw. With 28 seconds remaining Torrey Craig hit another trey to get the Spartans back to within a point and the home team called a quick timeout. The Hatters were able to get the ensuing inbound-pass to their ace-in-the-hole Joel Naburgs who was immediately fouled to stop the clock with 25 seconds left. Naburgs stepped up to the line and swished a pair free throws. Chavis missed a desperation 3-pointer in the final two seconds and Stetson left with the win.
"I thought we weren't at our best but we still found a way to win which means that we're improving", said Stetson head coach Derek Waugh. "Corey and Joel did a nice job of making clutch free throws at the end."
Stetson opened the game strong and was able to push its lead to eight points three times in the first half. The Hatters were in front 38-33 heading into the locker room with freshman forward Luis Jacobo (Sanford, Fla.) leading the way with eight points. Freshman Aaron Graham (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) scored seven after hitting 3-for-3 from the field and 1-of-1 from beyond the arc, and Walden picked up seven of his eight assists before the break.
In the end Ridge Graham equaled his second highest scoring output of the season of 19 points. He was successful on nine of 13 attempts from the field and added a free throw to go along with a team-high six rebounds and a pair of steals. Walden was 6-for-10 from the field, 6-of-7 from the line, and also finished with two steals. Seven of the nine Hatters who played in the game contributed to the victory with at least four points.
"We had a chance to put them away coming out of halftime but they got back in it. We just stuck to our defense and it ended up working towards the end of the game", said Ridge Graham.
Next up the Hatters will move on to Johnson City, Tennessee on Monday, January 10 for a 7:00 p.m. game against ETSU. Stetson fans can catch the games on A-Sun TV by logging into Hatter Vision. Also be sure to follow the Hatters on Twitter at @StetsonSID, on Facebook at Stetson Athletics, and check out the Stetson Hatters channel onYouTube.
"ETSU is always one of the best teams in the league so we're going to have to have our best focus and our best intra-team leadership to win that game", added Waugh.