With Stetson men’s basketball head coach Casey Alexander, the rest of his coaching staff, and a bevy of returning Hatters set to begin their second season together, spirits were high coming into the 2012-13 campaign.
However, a program that failed to reach the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament each of the past three seasons, Stetson didn’t receive much love in the preseason polls, even though many saw the Hatters as a team on the rise.
Stetson was picked to finish sixth in the league by both the A-Sun coaches, and the media that follows the conference. Teams that the Hatters would eventually finish higher than come the end of the season, USC Upstate, East Tennessee State, and North Florida were all selected to top Stetson back in the fall.
After falling by just eight points to eventual ACC Champion Miami on the road in the season-opener, Stetson continued its quality start to the season with a pair of 22-point home victories over Florida A&M and Southeastern. It marked the first time the Hatters won back-to-back 20+ point games since 2000.
That was when Stetson hit a rough patch. The Hatters lost six straight games, including a 23-point loss at Bethune-Cookman that had Stetson searching for answers. The first answer the Hatters found was of the buzzer beater variety.
Junior Chris Perez turned an offensive rebound with a second to go into a game-winning layup as the horn sounded to give Stetson a 69-68 victory at Florida Atlantic on December 18. The guard’s heroics snapped the team’s six-game losing streak.
Watch Chris Perez's buzzer-beater at FAU
Stetson then opened Atlantic Sun Conference play, splitting the first two weekends to start 2-2. After averaging 19.7 points per game, and leading the Hatters to wins over Kennesaw State and Jacksonville, Perez was named A-Sun Player of the Week, Stetson’s first such honor since 2010.
Building on the home win over the Dolphins on January 7, Stetson went on to earn five straight conference victories, and the team found itself in first place in the league. At 6-2, it was the furthest into a season that the Hatters were at the top of the standings since 1994-95. The five straight conference wins was the longest league win streak since 2005-06.
Following a stretch that saw the Hatters lose four out of five games, Stetson ended the regular season on a high note. The team swept its final road trip, topping both Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky for the second time in 2013. Senior Adam Pegg was named A-Sun Player of the Week after averaging 20.0 points and 8.5 rebounds, while recording his fourth double-double of the season on the weekend.
Stetson then returned home in hopes of avenging a loss from earlier in the season to in-state rival Florida Gulf Coast. The Hatters shot 54.2 percent from the floor en route to an 80-71 victory at the Edmunds Center. It was a great win for Stetson over the eventual A-Sun Champions and NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 darlings, but it was an even better night for senior Joel Naburgs.
The guard, in one of his final collegiate basketball games, scored a career high 27 points on a career best six three-pointers. His fourth triple of the game, which came just moments into the second half, broke the Stetson all-time record for career threes. Adding seven rebounds, six assists, and just one turnover, the senior became the third Hatter to earn A-Sun Player of the Week honors.
Watch Joel Naburgs' career night highlights against FGCU
Stetson split the final two games of the regular season to finish 11-7 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, and secure the third seed in the conference tournament. It marked the first time the Hatters earned a spot in the league championship since 2008-09, and it was the most overall wins, as well as conference wins since 2007-08.
To go along with the team success, there were plenty of individual accolades for the Hatters in 2012-13. Pegg and Perez, after finishing as the top scoring in the league, were both named to the A-Sun All-Conference Team. Pegg became the first Hatter to earn First Team honors since 2001, while Perez’s Second Team nod gave Stetson two players on the all-conference teams for the first time since 1993.
Pegg added Capital One Academic All-District, Academic All-Conference, and A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors to his resume for achievement on and off the court in 2012-13. Junior Hunter Miller was also a member of the A-Sun’s Academic All-Conference Team.
Additionally, Alexander was named CollegeInsider.com’s Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, and junior Aaron Graham was named the league’s Sixth man of the Year by CollegeHoopsDaily.com.
In its first A-Sun Tournament in four years, Stetson stepped up in the quarterfinals, defeating sixth seed ETSU 67-46 to earn its first trip to the league semifinals since 2005-06. It marked the Hatters’ largest margin of victory in the tournament since 1993, and the team set a new A-Sun Tournament record by holding the Bucs to just 25.4 percent shooting from the field.
Unfortunately, Stetson’s season came to an end the next night when eventual A-Sun Champion FGCU defeated the Hatters in the semifinals.
All in all, it was a tremendous season for Stetson men’s basketball. The Hatters finished the year eighth in the entire nation averaging 16.2 assists per game. With 502 total, it was the second most ever in a season at Stetson. Similarly, the Hatters made 230 three-pointers on the season, the second most ever in school history.
Stetson finished the year at 15-16 overall, 11-7 in A-Sun play, earned the third seed in the A-Sun Tournament, and reached the conference semifinals. It was one of the most successful season for Stetson men’s basketball in the last decade, and the Hatters hope to continue that trend next season.