Sophomore Jama Sharp led four Hatters in double figures with 16 points as the Stetson women’s basketball team defeated Georgia Southern 70-39 in the first game of the 2012 Hatter Classic Tuesday afternoon at the Edmunds Center.
The Hatters (6-4) held the Eagles (1-6) to just one point over the final 10 minutes and earned their first 30-point victory over a Division I opponent since 1989.
“I thought our defense was real good for a full 40 minutes,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. “Georgia Southern is a scrappy team, they play hard, and in the first half they shot 60 percent from behind the arc, and I wasn’t pleased with that. I felt like in the second half we needed to get out more on their shooters. But we did a great job rebounding throughout the game.”
After a slow start for both teams, senior Ashley Dennis came off the bench and hit a pair of three-pointers to spark Stetson to a 15-9 lead. The Hatters would extend the lead to 12 on a steal and lay-up by Victoria McGowan, and a three-pointer by Sharp in the closing seconds of the half put Stetson ahead by 14 at the break.
In the first five minutes of the second half, sophomore C.J. Coddington had two steals at half court that she turned into fastbreak lay-ups, helping Stetson extend the lead to 51-32 at the 15:09 mark.
“I just had to get up and pressure the ball,” Coddington said. “Our defense is really a team effort, we all have to apply pressure and rebound.”
Georgia Southern’s last field goal came from Anna Claire Knight at the 10:41 mark, and the Eagles managed just one free throw the rest of the way.
Sharp finished the game 7-for-10 from the floor to raise her season field goal percentage to .530.
“We work on shooting a lot in the fall, and I really made it my goal this year to get shots up and improve from last year,” Sharp said. “It’s really of matter of getting myself into a good position where my teammates can get me the ball.”
McGowan joined Sharp in double figures with 15 points, adding eight rebounds, and six assists. Dennis scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and Cherisse Burris collected 11 points and six rebounds.
“I thought Ashley Dennis was the player of the game on both ends of the floor,” Bria said. “She took good shots, she played very good defensively for us. She’s always been a kind of a garbage player. She takes charges she gets loose balls. She has saved her best for her senior year. She plays within herself and is just a great team player.”
With the large lead, the Hatters were able to utilize the bench throughout the second half. No Stetson starter played over 28 minutes.
“We needed some other players to log some minutes,” Bria said. “We are going to need them in conference. The season gets to be really long, and to be able to play nine, 10, 11, or 12 players would be nice. So I was very happy to be able to put some other people in the game.”
The Hatters shot 52 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Eagles 38-26.
In the second game Tuesday, Bethune-Cookman defeated UNC Asheville 74-57.
The Hatters will face UNC Asheville at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. A video broadcast will be available for free on HatterVision.
Notes: Stetson's last 30-point win over a Division I opponent came on Feb. 4, 1989 vs. UCF. Stetson did defeat Saint Leo (DII) 73-37 in 2010 ... The Hatters have won nine straight and 21 of their last 22 games at home ... Janelle Mills is now tied for sixth in school history with 65 career blocks ... Victoria McGowan has recorded at least one assist in 40 straight games ... The Hatters improved to 6-0 when holding opponents to under 70 points.