DeLand, Fla. - Senior center Natasha Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio) scored 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead the Stetson women's basketball team (16-12, 12-7 Atlantic Sun) to a key 57-51 win over visiting North Florida (13-15, 11-8 A-Sun) Thursday at the Edmunds Center. With the victory, the Hatters locked up the #2 seed in next week's General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference championships, the highest seed for the program since 1996.
Stetson stumbled at the outset and found itself down 8-0 and 24-7 before beginning its road back. An 8-0 run brought the Hatters within nine points of the Ospreys with 5:38 left in the first half and they kept the pressure on by cutting the deficit to six, 30-24, at halftime.
An 11-0 run across halftime allowed Stetson to take its first lead on a Graboski basket with 17:32 left in the second half; the Hatter guards would make it a point to dump the ball down low on almost every possession in the second half to exploit her matchup.
UNF and the Hatters went back and forth for much of the rest of the game with Stetson not taking the lead for good until senior guard Tierra Brown (Orlando, Fla.) found Graboski for a jumper in the paint with 5:51 left to put the Hatters ahead 50-49. That basket came as part of a game-closing 10-2 spurt. The Ospreys could only manage one field goal in the final 7:12 against a re-energized Stetson defense.
Graboski shot 50 percent from the floor (11-22) and grabbed five offensive boards en route to her third consecutive double-double and fourth in her last five games. Brown finished with 18 points on 7-12 shooting while sophomore guard Victoria McGowan (Inkster, Mich.) nearly had an extremely rare double-double without points, tallying nine rebounds and a career-high nine assists.
Taylor Smith scored 18 points to lead UNF with reigning A-Sun Player of the Week Larkira Jones hurting the Hatters in the paint to the tune of 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blockes. Point guard Juliemay Syquio had seven assists for the Ospreys.
The win moved Stetson into sole possession of fourth place in the standings and locked up the #2 seed in the A-Sun tournament next week in Macon, Ga. The Hatters will play at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2 in the quarterfinals against the #7 seed; that will be either Belmont, Lipscomb or Kennesaw State. The Hatters conclude the regular season at 1 p.m. Saturday against Jacksonville at the Edmunds Center. It will be Senior Day for Brown, Graboski, Jessica Conner (Cocoa, Fla.) and Mairead McNally (Belfast, N. Ireland). Live Stats and Hatter Vision will be available at GoHatters.com.