SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Stetson men's basketball team (7-10, 4-2) moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings with a 66-64 road victory at USC Upstate (8-9, 2-2) on Saturday. Senior Adam Pegg led the Hatters with a season high 25 points in the victory.
"I was so proud of our guys for finding a way to win on the road against a really good team," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said after the game. "It's a great win for Stetson tonight. It was a team effort all the way around. Everybody deserves the credit for a big win."
Just like in Thursday's win at ETSU, Stetson opened the scoring on Saturday with a three-pointer. This time it was Pegg, who knocked down his first of three triples in the game to get the Hatters going early.
After the Spartans took the lead at 4-3, Stetson went on a 9-0 run to take a 12-4 lead six and a half minutes into the contest. A three in transition by senior Joel Naburgs started the run, while a turnaround hook by Pegg - something Upstate would see all night long - closed the stretch.
Upstate countered with an 11-2 run midway through the period to take the lead back, at 17-16, with 8:18 to play in the half. The Hatters once again took the advantage though, by scoring seven straight points on two free throws by Pegg, a conventional three-point play by junior Willie Green, and another jump hook by Pegg.
However, it was the Spartans who went into the break with the advantage, scoring the final six points of the frame to hold a 36-33 lead at halftime. Upstate shot 57.7 percent from the floor, and 62.5 percent from beyond the arc, to make up for Stetson's hot start.
Pegg scored in the post to open the second half, which ignited a 17-7 run that gave the Hatters a 50-43 lead with 12:40 to play in the game. Pegg scored seven points during the stretch, but it was senior Liam McInerney's second three-pointer of the game that put Stetson up seven points midway through the final frame.
It wasn't until a pair of jumpers by Ty Greene and Fred Miller that the Spartans came within one-point of the Hatters. Miller's pull-up made it 60-59 in favor of Stetson with just four minutes to play. The Hatters continued to hold onto the advantage, getting stop after stop, not allowing Upstate to score again until the 2:02 mark in the second half.
Leading 62-61, McInerney found Pegg in the post, cut to the lane, and received the ball from the center, quickly putting it up on the glass for a nicely executed give-and-go. The Hatters once again led by three points at 64-61 with 1:43 to play.
"We talked in the timeout," Alexander said of the late-game moments. "We didn't want heroes, but we wanted guys that were ready to deliver when their number was called, step up, make plays, be the aggressor, want the ball, and we had a lot of guys do that."
Stetson then forced 2011-12 A-Sun Player of the Year Torrey Craig into another missed three-pointer, one of eight triples off the mark on the night. Junior Aaron Graham then hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line to give the Hatters a 65-61 lead with 1:12 remaining.
Just under 40 seconds later, Greene knocked down his fifth three of the game to bring Upstate within one point one more time, at 65-64. The Spartans then lost 20 second on the clock while attempting to put the Hatters on the line. With 12 second to play junior Hunter Miller made 1-of-2 from the line to put Stetson up two points.
Upstate's penultimate attempt missed the mark, but Ricardo Glenn grabbed his seventh offensive rebound of the contest, threw it up toward the rim, and was fouled as the buzzer sounded. With only .1 left on the clock, the Upstate big man went to the line, and missed both to give Stetson the 66-64 victory.
"This is easily the best win of the year for us, right here," Alexander said. "[Upstate's] a tough team to beat, so we need to take it and run with it, and build on it. The truth is we've got 12 more conference games, and win or lose this one, the next one is just as important."
Pegg led the Hatters with a season high 25 points, recording double figure points for the 12th straight game. The senior shot 10-of-16 from the floor, 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, while adding six rebounds and three assists.
"We came into this game with a bunch of confidence," Pegg said following the victory. "The last couple of weeks we've been playing really well, we've had a bunch of good practices, so we came into this game expecting to win."
Green was the only other Hatter in double figures. The forward totaled 10 points, including six free throws, to go along with six rebounds. McInerney and Graham added eight points each in the victory.
USC Upstate was led by Greene, who scored 18 points on five triples. Craig finished with 12 points, while Jodd Maxey chipped in with 10 points in the loss. Glenn led the Spartans with nine rebounds and five steals.
With the win, Stetson is now tied with Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville atop the Atlantic Sun Conference standings with a league record of 4-2. The Hatters will next return home to host Northern Kentucky on Thursday, Jan. 17 and Lipscomb on Saturday, Jan. 19 on ESPN3.
Notes: Adam Pegg's season high of 25 points were six shy of his career-best 31, scored vs. Belmont on 2/13/12...Pegg recorded double figures for the 12th straight game, and the 15th out of 16 contests this season...It was Pegg's four 20 point game this season, and the 10th in his career at Stetson...Chris Perez finished with a season low two points, snapping his double figures streak at 10 straight games...With two three-pointers, Joel Naburgs now has 152 career triples, leaving him 19 shy of the all-time Stetson record...The Hatters, now 7-10 overall and 4-2 in A-Sun play, are two wins shy of their total victories and conference win marks from last season...The win marked three victories in a row for the Hatters, the first time Stetson achieved that in a single season since 2008-09.