The Atlantic Sun Conference has turned into a two-horse race atop the regular season standings, as Florida Gulf Coast and North Florida are the top two teams. At the bottom of the standings, however, there is a battle brewing to stay out of the cellar at season’s end. The Kennesaw State Owls and the Stetson Hatters find themselves battling it out for who doesn’t finish at the bottom the conference standings.
On Saturday, the Owls paid a visit to the Hatters in the second and final meeting of the season between the two schools. Back on January 22nd, the Owls knocked off the Hatters with an 88 – 82 victory on their home floor. Kennesaw State was coming off a heart-breaking loss to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in their last time out, and the Stetson Hatters entered Saturday afternoon riding a four-game winning streak.
Both of these teams were looking for a bounce-back win, and to give themselves a better chance of not finishing in the bottom spot of the conference standings, but only one team can come away a winner. On this day, that team would be the Kennesaw State. The Owls completed the season sweep of the Hatters with a 61 – 56 road victory over the Hatters.
The game started out slow for the Hatters, as they only scored two points before the first media timeout. Their slow start allowed the Kennesaw State Owls to race out to an 11 – 2 lead before the first media break in the action. Bernard Morena scored three early points and Nigel Pruitt added six points of his own to pace the Owls early on.
Out of the media timeout, the Owls would keep pushing away on the offensive end. Three free throws from Yonel Brown pushed their lead to double-digits, at 16 – 4. Wyatt Sikora recorded a layup for the Hatters to quickly trim the deficit down to 10 with just under 12 minutes left in the half.
Stetson would cut the lead down to nine on several occasions throughout the rest of the first half, but the Owls had a firm grasp on the lead. Whenever Stetson tried to cut down the lead, Kennesaw State had an answer on the offensive end and wouldn’t allow the Hatters to get any closer.
It wasn’t until Kentwan Smith made a three-point jumper at the buzzer to end the first half that the Hatters got any closer than 9 points. At the break, the Owls held an eight point lead over Stetson, at 36 – 28. After the first half, it looked as though the Owls were well on their way to a season sweep of the Hatters.
In the second half, the Hatters came out swinging, and they quickly erased the eight-point deficit that was facing them. Grant Lozoya scored seven straight points to open the half, and the Hatters held the Owls off the scoreboard for over four minutes to cut the deficit to just a single point.
After Bernard Morena got the Owls on the board in the second half to push the lead back to three, Lozoya continued his strong play. He extended his point scoring streak to 12 straight points, and the Hatters took their first lead of the game, at 40 – 38.
From there, Kennesaw State would go on an 11 – 0 run of their own to retake full control of the game. The Owls retook a nine point lead, erasing any momentum that Stetson gained from their hot start to the half. Stetson would try to get retake the lead as the half progressed, and they were able to get to within a single point with just 2:30 to go, but to no avail.
The Hatters put up a valiant fight in front of their home crowd, but they couldn’t regain a lead of their own down the stretch. A Damien Wilson bucket put the Owls up seven with under a minute to play, and they relied on solid free throw shooting to seal the deal.
In the end, the Kennesaw State Owls held off a strong push from the Stetson Hatters in the second half to come away with the 61 – 56 win, and complete the season sweep of the Hatters.
Damien Wilson led the way for the Owls, scoring a game-high 21 points off the bench to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists in a winning effort. Bernard Morena added 15 points of his own in the game.
Freshman guard Divine Myles was held in check for the Hatters for the game, registering only 6 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Myles also recorded 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks in the game. Grant Lozoya scored a team-high 19 points, but it wasn’t enough to lead his team to a victory.
The win put Kennesaw State (10 – 19, 4 – 8) two games clear of the last-place Hatters in the conference standings, and they have a chance to move even higher in the standings over their last two games. They will look to move higher in the standings when they take on Northern Kentucky in their next time out.
The loss was the fifth straight for the Stetson Hatters (8 – 20, 2 – 10), following a brief three-game winning streak back in January. The Hatters are guaranteed at least a share of last place in the conference standings this year, but the future is bright down in Deland with the likes of Divine Myles, Grany Lozoya, and Wyatt Sikora in the mix. Stetson will look to close out the season with some positives when they take on the Jacksonville Dolphins in their next time out.