The Stetson men's basketball team (9-13, 6-5) dropped its third straight game on Saturday, falling to North Florida (9-15, 4-7) by a score of 64-59. Junior Willie Green led the Hatters with 15 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
Loser in their previous four contests, the Ospreys came out sluggish in the first half and Stetson was able to take advantage of it. Led by eight points from junior Chris Perez and six points out of Green, the Hatters busted out to a 14-2 lead through the first 6:14 of play.
Stetson used an 11-0 run in just over two minutes to extend its lead to 29-10 with 8:26 remaining in the first half. Juniors Hunter Miller and Aaron Graham hit back-to-back threes before senior Joel Naburgs knocked down a long step back two and a triple of his own to give the Hatters the comfortable first half advantage.
Late in the first period a three-pointer by Will Wilson and a put-back layup by Travis Wallace sandwiched one free throw by Green to cut the Stetson lead to 35-23 at the break.
Building on that run, the Ospreys opened the second half on fire, scoring the first 13 points of the frame to take their first lead of the game, at 36-35, with 15:57 to play. Beau Beech highlighted the run with a pair of three-pointers.
Senior Adam Pegg stopped the bleeding with a pair of free throws to give Stetson the lead once again, and the back-and-forth action continued throughout the rest of the frame. Neither team led by more than four points until the final minute of action.
For as well as the Hatters played offensively in the first half, they weren't able to conjure up much scoring of any kind in the second. For the first 18 minutes and six seconds of the frame, Stetson recorded just four baskets.
The fifth bucket, a layup by Pegg with 1:54 to play, cut the UNF lead to one-point at 56-55. A two in the post by Wallace and two free throws by Parker Smith immediately followed to give the Ospreys a five point lead with 40 second to play, and secured North Florida the victory.
"We're real disappointed that we didn't take advantage of a team that came out lethargic and handed us the first half," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said. "I think we capitalized on it, but it's a 40 minute game and in the second half they were clearly the aggressor, clearly the better team, and we didn't respond."
The Ospreys' two stars, Wallace and Smith, were held to just four points and three points in the first half, respectively. The two scored 14 points each in the second, recording UNF's final 24 points of the game, beginning with two free throws by Smith with 9:43 to play.
Stetson finished 21-of-55 from the floor and just 3-of-16 from beyond the arc, marking its third straight game with no threes made in the second half. The Hatters, currently ninth in the country with 17.2 assists per game, tallied only nine against the Ospreys, a season-low for Stetson.
Green led the Hatters with 17 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which were offensive. It marked his second double-double of the season, and the third of his career. Perez added 14 points and six rebounds, while Pegg chipped in with 11 points for his 17th straight game scoring in double figures.
Wallace led the Ospreys with 18 points and seven rebounds. Smith, who went 9-for-10 from three-point range earlier in the season against the Hatters, was held to just 2-of-13 shooting and 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. The guard finished with 17 points thanks to an 11-for-11 night from the line.
The Hatters have now lost three straight, and fall to 6-5 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. Stetson will return home to host USC Upstate and ETSU on Feb. 7 and Feb. 9, respectively.
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