Nashville, Tenn. - The Stetson men's basketball team (3-9, 1-3 Atlantic Sun) nearly made it all the way back from a 26-point halftime deficit Monday night at A-Sun rival Belmont (8-6, 3-1 A-Sun), getting to within five points before succumbing 85-71 at the Curb Event Center. Four Hatters scored in double figures, led by senior guard A.J. Smith (Cocoa, Fla.) with 20 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Joel Naburgs (Victoria, Australia) scored a career-high 11 points.
Down 26 at halftime, the Hatters opened the second half on a 21-9 run to close within 14 points approximately six minutes into the second stanza. Naburgs buried three trifectas and senior guard Brandon Williams (Miami, Fla.) poured in two more to cut the deficit to 55-41; Bruins freshman guard Ian Clark hit a three of his own at the 13:00 mark to blunt Stetson's momentum.
Stetson kept up the intensity, getting back within five points with 7:05 to go on three straight steals and transition baskets, making it 60-55 before a Jon House slam dunk restored Belmont's lead to seven by the penultimate media timeout. That basket started a 6-0 Bruin spurt that gave the home team the breathing room it needed to hold on.
Head Coach Derek Waugh on tonight's rally: "One of the hard things about long road trips is that we're together all the time and because of that some teams get chippy and start dividing amongst themselves. Instead of doing that in the locker room at halftime, we came together rather than fall apart. We passed the ball well and had a lot better team defense in the second half. Although we didn't get the signature win I think we got a lot better tonight."
Williams scored all 13 of his points in the second half to support Smith's effort; freshman forward Ridge Graham (Stuart, Fla.) scored 12 points and junior center Graeme Radford (Victoria, Australia) contributed seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
Ian Clark scored 31 points to lead Belmont to the win; Scott Saunders added 17 points and six rebounds for the Bruins. Belmont shot 50 percent from the field (25-50).
The Hatters are back in action Friday at 7 p.m. when they host A-Sun rival Jacksonville at the Edmunds Center. Hatter Vision and Live Stats are both available for this and all home Stetson basketball games at www.GoHatters.com.