Behind an explosive 48-point first-half, the Stetson women's basketball team won its 16th straight home game, defeating USC Upstate 79-55 Monday night at the Edmunds Center.
Shanasa Sanders scored 23 points and collected nine rebounds as the Hatters (18-6) improved to 11-2 in the Atlantic Sun Conference and a perfect 12-0 at home this season.
Victoria McGowan tallied 13 points, including the 1400th point of her career, while Cherisse Burris (12 points) and Jama Sharp (11) also scored in double figures.
"We played really well in the first 20 minutes," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "We were moving the ball well, cutting hard, and just sharing the ball. I thought Victoria had some good shots that she just passed up to somebody else who had a better shot."
For the game Stetson shot 53.7 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from behind the arc. The Hatters outrebounded the Spartans 37-29, and held a 38-28 advantage in points in the paint.
"When we win the battle of the paint, we tend to win the game," Bria said. "That seems like that's the stat - although not all the time - that makes the difference on whether we win or lose."
Stetson pounded the ball inside early, scoring the first 15 points from either in the paint or from the free throw line. Sanders knocked down Stetson's first outside jumper, a three-pointer at the 12:16 mark that gave the Hatters an 18-6 lead.
The Hatters returned to the inside game, getting back-to-back layups by Burris and one more by Sharp to extend the lead to 24-9.
"As much as we like to shoot the three, I still think the game is won and lost on the low block," Bria said. "You have got to get the ball inside and you have to score points in the paint."
Sanders second three-pointer of the half put Stetson ahead by 16, 29-13.
The lead was still 16 when Stetson broke the game wide open with an 11-0 run. C.J. Coddington ignited the surge with a three-pointer from the left corner just before the shot clock expired to put Stetson ahead by 19, 40-21.
A pair of Spartan turnovers led to a short jumper by Sanders and a three-pointer by Jama Sharp. McGowan then swished home a long three and Stetson took a 48-23 lead into halftime.
The Hatters shot 65 percent in the first 20 minutes of play, while USC Upstate (9-15, 5-8) shot only 38 percent.
"Defensively we were very good as well," Bria said. "They are a very good penetrating team. I thought we contained them well and got stops. It took them a while to get points on the board."
McGowan's three-pointer at the 10:27 mark of the second half put her at the 1400-point mark for her career. She is just the fourth player in school history to reach that milestone.
"If she were here for four years she would have about 3000 points," Sanders said about McGowan. "She's our leader and we go as she goes."
Sanders, meanwhile, continued her run of high scoring games. She is now averaging 19.4 points over her last five contests.
"She has been shooting well, and everything is going in," McGowan said about Sanders. "I just tell her to keep shooting, even when you miss just keep shooting."
The Hatters led by as many as 33 in the second half before completing a 24-point victory.
"To their credit USC Upstate came out and played better in the second half, but I didn't feel like we had that drop off like we had in the East Tennessee game," Bria said. "We still played a very good game for 40 minutes on both ends."
The women's basketball program hosted its annual Play4Kay contest to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer, and a large turnout of Stetson students wearing pink "Pack the House" t-shirts rallied the Hatters throughtout the game.
"I know coach Dunn was here with his (baseball) players, our football team and our lacrosse team was here, and I am just thankful and grateful to everyone who came," Bria said. "We had a lot of people from the community here as well and to support a great cause. Almost all of us have been effected by cancer in some way, and it's just nice to see everyone come out, support a good cause, and see a really good game."
The Hatters will return to action next Saturday as they visit Northern Kentucky for the first-time ever. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. with live coverage on ASun.TV and WSBB.
Notes: Stetson's 18 victories ties for the sixth-highest single-season win total in school history ... The school record is 23 wins, set last year ... It was the seventh time in 12 home games this season that Stetson led wire-to-wire ... Stetson won its eighth game of the season by 20 or more points ... Stetson's 16-game home court winning streak trails only Baylor (51), Chattanooga (24), and Penn State (18) ... Sasha Sims is now 25 points shy of 1000 in her career ... Stetson is 15-1 when outscoring its opponents in the paint.