|Hatters Battle Bucs to the End|
JR Weston hit for a career-high nine points against ETSU.
Courtesy: Jim Hogue Photos
DeLand, Fla. - Redshirt freshman Ridge Graham (Stuart, Fla.) led the Hatters with 18 points and seven rebounds, while true freshman Joel Naburgs (Victoria, Australia) hit double figures for the third consecutive game with 12 points, yet Stetson (5-18, 3-12) fell 75-60 to Atlantic Sun Conference foe East Tennessee State (13-12, 9-5) Saturday night in the Edmunds Center.
Leading the way for the Buccaneers was Micah Williams with a game-high 22 points. Tommy Hubbard and Isiah Brown each added 14 points. Hubbard led all rebounders with 10 boards.
Playing the same team they defeated three weeks ago on the road, the Hatters came out playing hard and looking for a season sweep. After falling behind at halftime, Stetson fought back to within three points twice in the second half. At 11:06 A.J. Smith (Cocoa, Fla.) hit a pair of free throws to make the score 48-45. After ETSU pushed the lead back to six, Naburgs canned a big 3-pointer to make the score 51-48 with just over nine minutes to play.
"I was really encouraged with Joel's play, he is becoming a heck of a player", said Stetson head coach Derek Waugh. "And AJ... I was really proud of him for coming out tonight and giving the team some energy. He is really more injured than it seemed."
Smith missed Thursday's game against Campbell after aggravating an ankle injury sustained earlier in the season. It was the first game all year that he did not start. Tonight was the second.
After Stetson was able to get the game to one possession, ETSU went on an 8-1 run and returned the lead to double digits with 6:17 on the clock. From then on the Hatters were forced to play the foul game in an attempt to get back in it. Unfortunately, the Bucs heated up at the line to put the game out of reach. The game was much closer than the 75-60 final score would indicate. ETSU was 15-for-17 from the line in the second half, and an impressive 56.3% from the field for the entire game.
Although Stetson is out to win every game and absolutely never gives up, it is a team of the future, and the future is bright. Of the 60 points scored by the Hatters, 48 were scored by freshmen. After Graham's 18 and Naburgs' 12, JR Weston (Morral, Ohio) had a career-high nine points, Tyshawn Patterson (Orlando, Fla.) hit for five, and Liam McInerney (Victoria, Australia) added four points to the cause. Combined with next year's top-rated (A-Sun) recruiting class, this group could prove to be unstoppable sooner rather than later.
"I was proud of all our guys tonight they came out and played hard. We didn't back down at all. I think the guys executed really well", added Waugh.
The Buccaneers were nearly impossible to stop in the first half hitting18-of-28 from the field for a 64.3 shooting percentage. It seemed like every shot they threw up dropped through. The Hatters kept the score close by matching ETSU inside with 14 points in the paint (16 for the Bucs) and knocking down 9-of-10 free throw attempts.
With 4:52 left in the period ETSU had a 10 point lead following a jumper by Tommy Hubbard. Stetson followed with a 9-2 run. Graham sparked the streak with a thundering dunk after nifty a feed by Tyshawn Patterson. A 3-pointer and a layup by JR Weston and a pair of free throws by Graham moved Stetson to within a deuce at 34-32. The Bucs, however, used the final 2:39 of the half to outscore the Hatters 7-0 and take a nine point lead into the locker room.
Next up Stetson will travel to Jacksonville to take on North Florida Thursday at 7:45 p.m. Stetson fans can make the short drive up I-95 see the Hatters live, or check out the game on A-Sun TV found at www.atlanticsun.org.