|Stetson Comeback Falls Short Against Belmont|
Brandon Williams dished out seven assists against Belmont.
Courtesy: Jim Hogue Photos
DeLand, Fla. - Three Hatters scored in double figures led by senior A.J. Smith (Cocoa, Fla.) with 23 points and the home team made a big run to take a lead late in the second half, yet Stetson (6-21, 4-14 A-Sun) could not hold on and fell 79-70 to Belmont (17-10, 12-5 A-Sun) Thursday night in the Edmunds Center.
Freshman Joel Naburgs (Victoria, Australia) scored a career-high 15 points and equaled career-highs with six rebounds and five assists. Redshirt freshman Ridge Graham (Stuart, Florida) scored 13 points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, and pilfered a career-high five steals. It had been 77 games since a Hatter picked up five steals in a game (Kris Thomas vs. Savannah State on December 20, 2007).
Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) led the offensive charge for the Bruins with 21 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) with 19.
With 12:29 left in the game Graham slammed home a dunk and ignited a 21-5 run by the Hatters that ended with a Graham free throw completing a three point play. Stetson had an eight point lead with 6:45 on the clock. Belmont, however followed with a 19-3 run to regain an eight point lead of its own with a minute and a half remaining. After a Naburgs layup to reduce the deficit to five, the Hatters were forced to foul and the Bruins did not miss their freebies leading to a nine-point win.
One key factor in the loss was Belmont's 46-24 advantage in rebounding and their relentless ability to score in the paint (44 of 79 points). Stetson had a solid night shooting the ball at 46.4% from the field and 47.4% from beyond the arc. In comparison Belmont shot 45.9% and 30.0%.
"Ultimately we didn't rebound the ball well enough to beat 'em", said Stetson head coach Derek Waugh.
The loss eliminated Stetson from the upcoming Atlantic Sun Tournament with two games remaining in the season. Belmont moved up into a three-way tie for first place in the league.
"It has been a disappointing season", said Waugh. "On a positive note we have improved as a basketball team. We are a much better team than we were at the beginning of the year. That is something we can hang our hat on and be proud of."
With this season's outstanding play of the freshman combined with an excellent incoming freshman class next year (ranked #1 in the A-Sun by ESPN.com), Hatters fans have much to look forward to in the near future and beyond.
Next up Stetson will remain home to take on Lipscomb Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. and then conclude the season by hosting USC Upstate the following Saturday, February 27 on senior night. A.J. Smith, Mark Lohuis (Vero Beach, Fla.) and Brandon Williams (Miami, Fla.) will be joined by Sheldon Oliver (Orlando, Fla.) at center court prior to tip off. Stetson fans can see the game on Hatter Vision by going to www.gohatters.com. The voice of Stetson men's basketball Murray Miller will call the action with Harry "Chat Man" Arnold providing the color.