HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The Stetson men's basketball team (12-14, 9-6) put forth one of its best defensive efforts of the season in a 62-46 defeat of Northern Kentucky (8-14, 6-8) on Saturday night. Senior Adam Pegg led the Hatters with 17 points in the victory.
After a sluggish start for the Hatters that saw the Norse take an 8-0 lead, a jumper in the lane by junior Chris Perez ignited a 25-9 run that put Stetson on top 25-17 with 7:26 to play in the first half. A balanced attack of three players leading the way with six points - Pegg, Perez, and junior Hunter Miller - the Hatters finished the first 20 minutes up 29-22.
Stetson wasn't blowing anyone away offensively in the first frame, shooting just 11-of-29 (37.9%) from the floor, but unlike the Hatters' recent trend, they only gave the ball away two times. Five offensive rebounds and five three-pointers helped SU get out to the first half lead.
"I was really pleased with how we stayed the course after the tough start," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said. "We got good shots that just didn't go in. There's did, so they just beat us 8-0 after four or five possessions. We didn't panic. We just kind of gradually got ourselves back in it, did what we're supposed to do, and gave ourselves a chance to have a nice first half."
Like many times this season, the Hatters went to Pegg early and often in the second half. The Stetson center was found in the post on the team's first two possessions of the period, and he capitalized on both with a pair of post buckets.
In fact, Pegg went on to record a 9-2 run all by himself to start the frame, putting the Hatters on top 38-24 with 15:47 to play when his first and only three-point attempt of the game swished through the net.
A three-pointer by Miller and another post basket by Pegg extended Stetson's lead to 19 points, at 55-36, with just 6:43 to play in the game. Unlike the Hatters' contest against ETSU, there was no coming back on Stetson this Saturday night.
The Norse only got as close as 11 points, before free throws from senior Joel Naburgs and a triple by Perez in the final minute gave Stetson the 62-46 win in Highland Heights. The 46 points marked the best defensive scoring output for the Hatters since a 59-39 victory over Kennesaw State on Feb. 14, 2009.
Pegg finished with 17 points to lead the Hatters in the victory. It marked his 21st straight game in double figures. Naburgs and Perez each added 11 points, while Miller chipped in with nine on a perfect 3-for-3 night from beyond the arc.
Miller added a game high five assists and five rebounds, while junior Willie Green led the Hatters with a game high eight rebounds. The Hatters as a team outrebounded the Norse 37-29, holding NKU to just four offensive boards.
"The rebounding effort was great all night long," Alexander said. "It may have been nice to get a few more of our own misses, but you can't argue with the margin. I mean we outrebounded them by eight, they only get four out of their 32 misses, I mean that's a huge number right there.
Stetson finished with just seven turnovers in the contest, a season best for the Hatters. It was just the third time in 2012-13 that SU recorded less than 10 turnovers.
"There have been plenty of games when we haven't needed any pressure to turn it over, and so I we're kind of coming out of that a little," Alexander said. "I think the Lipscomb second half helped us. We played freely and quit worrying about it. Seven's a good number, especially for us. It gives us a chance to get more quality possessions."
NKU was led by Jack Flournoy with 14 points. Eshaunte Jones added 11 points in the defeat. The Norse shot just 34.9 percent from the floor, and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Stetson will next return home for its final three game of the regular season. Beginning with next Friday's tilt against Florida Gulf Coast on CSS, the Hatters will finish out the regular season at the Edmunds Center, before heading to Macon for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.