At 9:56 of the second half an A.J. Smith layup gave the Hatters their first lead of the game at 48-46. When Ben Smith returned fire with a 3-pointer to put the Dolphins back on top, A.J. Smith wouldn't back down and answered with a three of his own. Stetson then scored seven of the next nine points and went up by seven at 58-51 with 6:52 remaining in the game.
Less than 10 seconds later a layup, a foul, and a free throw by Ben Smith turned the tide and gave the momentum back to the visitors. A 26-12 run the rest of the way by JU ended Stetson's hopes of a big win over the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Sun Conference title.
Ben Smith was 5-of-15 from the field and 12-for-13 from the line. A.J. Smith finished 5-for-12 from the field and an impressive 10-for-10 from the line. Ridge Graham (Stuart, Fla.) contributed to the Stetson cause by equaling his career-high of 19 points and adding a team-high six rebounds. Olivier Dupiton (Montreal, Canada) also equaled his career-high of eight points and chipped in a season-high five rebounds for the Hatters.
"Ultimately we did not execute down the stretch", said Stetson head coach Derek Waugh. "After we went up by seven late I thought we had a good chance. We are used to winning those games in the past. We don't have any margin for errors this season, and we made some errors."
Stetson's late comeback was made more impressive by the fact that it had such a slow start to the game. The Hatters did not score their first field goal until an A.J. Smith layup with 9:15 remaining in the first half; an 0-for-11 stretch. The Hatters' first 11 points came off free throws. Stetson shot just 25.9% in the first half before responding well with 51.9% in the second.
"We are not coming out ready to play which is frustrating", said Waugh. "We did play well in the second. We just need to keep pluggin', come back and get better next game. Give Jacksonville credit, they played well."
As a team eight of the nine Hatters that took the floor scored at least four points in the game. Mark Lohuis (Vero Beach, Fla.) hit a couple of key shots in the second half and Liam McInerney (Victoria, Australia) had another solid performance and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the line.
Next up Stetson will host North Florida on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in the Edmunds Center. Murray Miller and the "Chat Man" Harry Arnold will call the action on Hatter Vision which can be found on www.gohatters.com.