The Stetson men's basketball team (4-10, 1-2) fell to North Florida (7-9, 2-1) by a score of 90-74 in its Atlantic Sun Conference home opener on Saturday. Senior Adam Pegg led the Hatters with 19 points in the defeat.
"That team we saw today played a heck of a game," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said of the Osprey's performance. "I think we had something to do with them playing so well, but they were on a mission, and they played for 40 minutes about as good - offensively - as anybody that I've seen in a while."
Both teams started out quickly on the offensive end. Junior Chris Perez knocked down a three-pointer to open the scoring, but UNF quickly countered with a triple by David Jeune, and the two teams went back-and-forth before the first media timeout left Stetson tied with the Ospreys 12-12 through just 4:13.
After the break, senior Liam McInerney scored in the lane off of a nice post dish by Pegg, and then sophomore Dennis Diaz hit a three to give the Hatters a 17-12 lead with 12:45 to play. After a jumper by UNF's Beau Beech, junior Willie Green knocked down two free throws to put Stetson back up by five with just over 10 minutes remaining in the period.
Sharpshooting Parker Smith connected on his second three-pointer of the game to bring the Ospreys within two, and a turnaround by Travis Wallace tied the game at 19-19. A three by junior Aaron Graham put Stetson back up by three points, but an 11-2 run by UNF gave the Ospreys a six-point lead, an advantage North Florida would not give up the rest of the contest.
Smith hit two more treys during the stretch, and another two during a 10-2 run to end the period, leading UNF to a 47-31 lead at the break. The school's leader in career three-pointers made finished the half 7-of-8 from beyond the arc and a total of 23 points.
"He's as dynamic as any shooter in the country," Alexander said of Smith. "You watch as much video as coaches are forced to watch, you quickly see that he has the potential to do that every time he plays in a game, and he does it against some of the best teams in the country."
The Ospreys extended their lead to as many as 23 points early in the second half before the Hatters were able to make a push at getting back into the game. Stetson quickly went on a 9-2 run, beginning with a jumper by Green, ignited by a pair of post scores by Pegg, and concluding with a triple by Graham to cut the deficit to 16 points, at 62-46 with 13:27 to play.
Unfortunately the run was halted by yet another three from Smith. A conventional three-point play by UNF's Andy Diaz extended the lead back to 22, which gave the Ospreys the cushion they needed to coast to the 90-74 victory.
Smith led North Florida with 33 points on 9-of-10 from beyond the arc, just two away from his program and conference record of 11 triples in a game. UNF's Will Wilson tied a career-best with 12 assists, while Wallace added 23 points on 11-of-14 from the floor, and his first career three.
Stetson was led by Pegg's 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half, but Perez and Green added 17 and 16, respectively. Graham chipped in with 14 points, while junior Hunter Miller totaled a team high eight assists.
"We're 1-2, that's how we approach it," Alexander said of how the team moves forward. "That's all I care about; how we do in Atlantic Sun play. We tried to win every one prior to this, but that's where we're going to be measured. We're 1-2, and we have a home game on Monday. We win that and we're .500, and then we'll move onto the next weekend."
Stetson hosts Jacksonville (7-9, 2-1) on Monday at 5:15 p.m. at the Edmunds Center. The game can be watched live and for free on HatterVision and ASun.TV. Live Audio will also be available on WSBB 1230 AM, 1490 AM, and MyAM1230.com.