Coming into their regular season finale on Thursday night, the Stetson Hatters were limping towards the Atlantic Sun tournament.
After their road upset over the North Florida Ospreys. the Hatters have found themselves on the wrong end of games six straight times. Four of those six losses were on their home floor, so Thursday night provided the Hatters with the perfect opportunity to build some positive momentum before the conference tournament kicks off.
If they wanted to get back on track, they needed another big effort as they looked to notch their second major upset in conference action. They welcomed the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles to town, who were looking for an extra boost of momentum themselves in conference play.
Thanks to a big run in each half, the Hatters were able to overcome a double-digit first half deficit to end the 2015-16 regular season on a high note. In front of their home crowd, Stetson came away with the 80-73 upset victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
The Eagles came out of the gates flying, opening the game on an 8-2 run in the first three and a half minutes. Marc Eddy Norelia scored 4 early points for the visitors.
Brian Pegg put an end to the run with his second basket of the game to make it 8-4.
Despite Pegg trying to keep the Hatters close, the Eagles went on another lengthy run to seemingly break the game wide open. Following Pegg’s layup that, Florida Gulf Coast went on a 16-2 to stretch their lead to 24-6 before the halfway point of the opening half.
Rayjon Tucker and Reggie Reid capped off the run with a three pointer each.
It looked as though the Hatters were in for a long night, but the game was far from over. Luke Doyle followed up Reid’s three pointer with one of his own, kicking off a mini 8-0 run for the Hatters to cut into the lead of the Eagles.
Florida Gulf Coast would push their lead back to 34-19 before Stetson made one final push before the opening half came to a close.
Divine Myles got the party started with a jumper, igniting an 11-0 run that brought the Hatters to within 4 with just over a minute left in the half. Grant Lozoya would connect on a three with 29 seconds on the clock, sending Stetson into the break within striking distance, trailing by a score of 38-35.
Stetson wasted little time completing their comeback in the second half, as Derick Newton hot a three pointer on the first shot of the second half to tie it at 38-all.
From there, the Eagles rattled off 8 straight points to take a 46-38 lead. Stetson continued to fight back, and were rewarded with 12:35 to play in the half, when Pegg put in another layup to give the Hatters their first lead of the game, 54-53.
It took a while for them to take a lead in the game, but once they got out in front, they never looked back. Stetson slowly built on their lead as the half ticked away, stretching their lead to as many as 10 points on a pair of occasions.
With the roles reversed, it was the Eagles’ turn to show some fight as they tried to get back into the contest. A layup from Christian Terrell brought the Eagles to within 3 with 1:35 left in the game, but that was as close as they would get down the stretch.
Angel Rivera and Divine Myles combined to score the last 6 points for the Hatters, pushing Stetson to the 80-73 upset victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
Marc Eddy Norelia led the way for the Eagles, scoring a game-high 29 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Zach Johnson chipped in with 11 points, while Christian Terrell added 5 points and 8 rebounds in the loss.
The Hatters used a more balanced scoring attack to lead them to victory. Brian Pegg scored a team-high 19 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 blocks for an all-around strong performance. Derick Newton added 17 points and 6 rebounds, while Divine Myles chipped in with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Luke Doyle came off the bench to score 18 points in the win.
Looking Ahead – Atlantic Sun Tournament
With the regular season now a mere memory for the teams in the Atlantic Sun, all 8 teams have turned their attention to the conference tournament.
Following their loss, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (17-13, 8-6) were awarded the 4-seed in the conference tournament due to tiebreakers. They will host the Kennesaw State Owls on Tuesday.
Thanks to their win, the Stetson Hatters (10-21, 4-10) earned the 7-seed in the tournament. They travel to take on the NJIT Highlanders in the opening round of the tournament, looking for their third big upset against conference opponents this season.
Atlantic Sun Tournament Match-Ups
#1) North Florida Ospreys v. #8) USC Upstate Spartans
#2) NJIT Highlanders v. #7) Stetson Hatters
#3) Jacksonville Dolphins v. #6) Lipscomb Bisons
#4) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles v. #5) Kennesaw State Owls