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Hatters Storm Back to Defeat Bruins in Edmunds Center
Courtesy: Stetson University  
Release:  02/02/2009
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A.J. Smith scored career-high 32 points in win over Belmont.
by: Dr. Jay Photos
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DeLand, Fla. – A.J. Smith (Cocoa, Fla.) delivered career-highs with 32 points and nine rebounds to lead  Stetson to a come from behind 82-71 win over Belmont Monday night in the Edmunds Center. After trailing by six at the half, the Hatters outscored the Bruins 52-35 in the second period.


Garfield Blair (Orlando, Fla.) added 19 points and nine rebounds while Kris Thomas (Lithonia, Ga.) chipped in 16 points. Matthew Dotson led the Bruins with 16 points and seven boards.


“We really played extremely well in the second half. We cut down on our mistakes and played our defense,” said head coach Derek Waugh. “That plus a contagious offense helped us win it.”


Belmont (13-8, 9-3) was up by as many as 10 points in the second half after a Keaton Belcher 3-pointer at 16:16. That was when Stetson (10-11, 7-6) began to whittle away at the lead.


When Smith knocked down a trey from the top of the key just before the first media timeout, Stetson was back to within five points. Soon after he added another from the same spot and the score was 47-45 Bruins with 14:05 to play.


Belmont increased its lead with five more points until Smith returned serve with a driving layup down the left side for his eighth consecutive point for the Hatters. After being fouled on the play he added one to make in nine in a row and the deficit was down to four at 52-48.


It was another 3-pointer by Smith at 5:56 that put Stetson on top to stay 61-59. On the night Smith was 6-for-12 from long range tying the team record for three point attempts in a game twice accomplished by Mark Brisker in 1991. Smith shot 9-of-18 from the field, 8-for-9 from the line and finished with five assists and four steals. He scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half.


“A.J was fantastic tonight - he makes plays. He did a great job offensively and defensively on Alex Renfroe as well,” said Waugh.


Coming down the stretch Stetson was not to be denied. After a hard drive to the basket by Blair for a bucket the Bruins were forced to call a timeout at 4:13 to slow Stetson’s momentum. It didn’t work as Stetson stole the ball on the next possession fed it to Smith in the corner for another bomb and the Hatters led 67-59 at the final media break. That was when Super fan Gus Gibbs took to the floor and did his thing spelling doom for the visitors.


Stetson dominated the battle of the boards pulling down 41 to 29 for Belmont. As a team the Hatters shot a season-high 49.1% from the field while holding the Bruins to 39.3%. After turnovers were a problem in the first half Stetson lost the ball just five times in the second.


The biggest issue for the Hatters in the first half was the turnovers. They gave the ball up 17 times in the period. The Bruins were able to take advantage of the miscues and led by as many as 12 points.


Offensively, predictable perimeter play combined with a swarming Bruins defense made it difficult for the Hatters to penetrate into the paint. Belmont, however was not the only team playing good defense. The Hatters have the second ranked scoring defense in the conference and they showed why in the first half. Eric Diaz (Miami, Fla.), Smith, and Thomas each picked up a pair of steals and the team held the league’s #1 scoring offense to just 36 points.


The Hatters eventually were able to work the ball inside to Sheldon Oliver (Orlando, Fla.) who hit the final basket of the first half from under the rim with 45 seconds remaining to make the score 36-30 heading into the locker room. It was an omen of things to come as Stetson adjusted its offense after the break.


The Hatters will take to the road this weekend for games against USC Upstate on Saturday February 7 at 1:00 p.m. and ETSU on Monday February 9 at 7:00 p.m. The voices of Stetson men’s basketball Murray Miller and Harry Arnold will broadcast the action; the play-by-play and analysis can be heard on Hatter Vision at, the official online home of Stetson Athletics. The game’s video feed will also be available through A-Sun TV and on Hatter Vision.


Tickets for all Stetson home games are available on line at For more information call the Stetson University Ticket Office at (386) 822-8110 or email at

Stetson Men's Basketball