DeLand, Fla. - It was indeed a Super Sunday for the Hatters men's basketball team. Led by freshman Corey Walden, Stetson (7-18, 5-9 A-Sun) pulled out a come-from-behind 55-54 upset victory over East Tennessee State (17-9, 12-3 A-Sun) in the Edmunds Center. The victory ended Stetson's seven-game skid that began with Kennesaw State's one point win after a miracle five second end-to-end run on January 16.
"We needed a good win to get back on track", said Stetson head coach Derek Waugh. "Sometimes when things are down about as low as they can possibly be, you win one that just kind of amazes you. God is good and I have been doing a lot of praying."
With 15 seconds remaining in the game, the Hatters were in possession of the ball and down by a point when Coach Waugh called a timeout. Walden, a point guard out of Ormond Beach wanted the ball with the game on the line and in the huddle Coach Waugh gave it to him. As the final seconds ticked off the clock Walden dribbled near the top of the key, faked left and then drove right towards the basket. He elevated and released a layup that looked more like a short jumper. The ball kissed the glass and dropped through the hoop to give his team the lead.
The Buccaneers had one last chance with five seconds left to play. Stetson fans watched while trying to keep the Kennesaw State memories out of their heads. Sheldon Cooley (Tampa, Fla.) drove towards the paint yet a well-positioned Tyshawn Patterson (Orlando, Fla.) took a charge, ended the opportunity, and sent the fans home happy.
Although it was a team win, Walden was a one-man wrecking crew. He led the Hatters in scoring with 15 points, as well as in rebounding with a career-high nine boards. Walden also added a pair of assists and hit another career-high, and a team season-high of six steals. To top it off, he became the first Hatter to play an entire 40-minute game since Will Robertson did it against Georgia State on February 17, 2001.
"Coach asked me if I needed a breather with about seven minutes left in the game but I just wanted to stay in... couldn't leave a game like this... I just wanted to stay in", said Walden.
Stetson went into halftime with just 17 points on the board and down by 10. The second half was a different story as the Hatters outscored the Bucs 38-27. A key moment occurred with 17:03 remaining when Walden went up for a rebound under the defensive glass. Although he took a hard shot to the jaw he was called for the foul. The play seemed to ignite his intensity. When the second free throw missed and was rebounded by the Buccaneers, Walden forcefully stole the ball, dribbled the length of the court and ended up sinking a pair of free throws after he was fouled. Twenty seconds later he made another steal on the defensive end that turned into his own slam dunk on the Stetson end. It was game-on.
ETSU was able to push its lead back to 11 points after an Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) jumper with 5:40 left on the clock. That, however, was when the Stetson defense took over the game and held the visitors scoreless for the remainder of the game. A Steve Forbes (Clermont, Fla.) layup, a Joel Naburgs (Victoria, Australia) 3-pointer, a Ridge Graham (Stuart, Fla.) layup, a Forbes tip-in, and a free throw by Graeme Radford (Victoria, Australia) led to Walden's game-winner at the end.
"We knew we had to turn up the intensity on the defensive end. That has been our main thing this year, consistency on defense. In the second half we all agreed we needed to turn it up", said Walden.
In addition to Walden, Naburgs and Ridge Graham hit double-figures with 13 and 10 points respectively. The Stetson bench outscored the ETSU bench 23-10.
"It was going to take some guys stepping up and we had a lot of guys stepping up today. Corey was obviously incredible. He wanted the ball in his hands which was nice to see. I thought Ridge was as energetic as I have ever seen him defensively. I thought Joel stepped up and made some big plays, and Tyshawn got four assists and no turnovers. And then at the end the guys just hunkered down, played some great defense and got enough rebounds to win", said Waugh.
Next up the Hatters travel to Georgia to take on Mercer and Kennesaw State. They will play Mercer on Thursday, February 10 at 7:30 p.m. and KSU on Saturday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m. Stetson fans can catch the games on A-Sun TV via Hatter Vision. Be sure to follow the Hatters on Twitter at @StetsonSID, on Facebook at Stetson Athletics, and check out the Stetson Hatters channel onYouTube.