The Stetson women (16-3, 7-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference) are fresh off a 74-63 victory over Lipscomb on Thursday night, a victory that ran their all-time best win streak to 10 games.
The Hatters’ men (7-9, 4-2) have won back-to-back games for the second time this year and are looking for a third straight victory for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
The women will face Belmont (4-13, 3-3) at 6 p.m. in the opening game with the men to follow against the league-leading Bruins (11-6, 4-1) at around 8:15 p.m.
The night will be a special one for first year Stetson men’s coach Casey Alexander, who grew up in Nashville, played at Belmont and was an assistant coach for Bruins’ head coach Rick Byrd for 16 years. Stetson assistant coaches Roger Idstrom and Steve Drabyn also have very strong ties to the Belmont program.
Despite the obvious emotional ties to the Belmont program, Alexander said Saturday evening is not about him, it is about the Stetson basketball program having an opportunity to make another step forward.
“There will be a lot of teams go in there and not be able to scratch in the win column,” Alexander said. “All you can do is prepare the same way you would for anyone else. You have to game plan well and have high expectations to win the games.”
For the Hatters, a win would propel them into no worse than a tie for first place in the A-Sun. Alexander said his focus is solely on the game.
“I'm really determined to handle it like any other game,” Alexander said. “Naturally, it will feel different being on the other bench coaching against my mentor and the players I care about, but Stetson is the team I'm pulling for.
“When you work as hard as coaches work trying to make your team as good as it can be, it's amazing how you pour yourself into where you are now, and what you left behind doesn't seem as important in the moment. But it doesn't change how I feel about Belmont.”
Alexander, and Drabyn, are two of the all-time great players in Belmont history. Alexander already owns a spot in the Belmont athletics Hall of Fame and Drabyn, who is fifth on the Bruins Division I scoring list with 1,237 points, will likely join him one day. Idstrom spent the previous 11 seasons on the Belmont coaching staff.
For the Hatters to earn a victory on the court, the team will have to continue to play like they have over their last two wins. The have to protect the basketball against pressure defense to limit turnovers, they have to get the ball inside for some easy baskets and they have to defend well without getting into foul trouble or give the Bruins a chance to score easy points at the free throw line.
Belmont is coming off a home loss to cross-town rival Lipscomb in which the Bruins shot just 39.4 percent from the floor and 60 percent from the free throw line. Belmont did hit 13 three-pointers in the game but forced just 15 turnovers. Lipscomb our-rebounded Belmont by a 40-33 margin.
The Hatters are coming off sweeping a pair of home games from Jacksonville and North Florida. On Monday against the Ospreys Stetson had its best game of the year in terms of protecting the ball, committing just 10 turnovers.
Stetson will look for junior center Adam Pegg to bounce back from a rough outing against UNF, a game in which he fouled out with only nine points,, breaking a stretch of five games where he had averaged 16.5 points per game.
Sophomore Willie Green stepped up against UNF with career highs for both points (17) and rebounds (10) and will see his opportunities to contribute continue to grow with solid play.
The Hatters have never swept the two games on the swing through Nashville, but a sweep this year would propel Stetson to the top of the league standings as they near the mid-point of the league schedule.
Stetson will face Lipscomb on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. to complete the Nashville trip before returning home for a Friday night showdown with Florida Gulf Coast at the Edmunds Center.
The game against FGCU will be televised by CSS and, at halftime, Stetson will unveil its new mascot. Fans in attendance at the game will receive a Stetson bandana to commemorate the mascot’s debut.