DELAND, Fl. — He may not be the tallest forward in the country, or the biggest in general, but Brian Pegg has had himself quite the career with the Stetson Hatters.
The 2016-17 season is Pegg’s fifth year in the NCAA, and he’s been one of the more effective players for the Hatters in recent years. Last season, he averaged a career-best 12.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per contest, while helping lead Stetson to the Atlantic Sun tournament championship game.
His stats won’t blow you away, but he is effective in what he does. He has shot 50.8% or better in each of the last three years ,and has been an impact player for Corey Williams and the Hatters.
On Thursday night, in front of the Hatters’ home crowd, Pegg reached a career milestone after years of hard work. In the first half, he surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. He finished the game with 10 points and 7 rebounds before fouling out in the second half, but Stetson would be just fine without their fifth-year forward.
Behind a combined 37 points from Divine Myles and Derick Newton, the Hatters held off the NJIT Highlanders‘ comeback efforts in the second half to notch their first conference win of the year, 82-76.
For the majority of the first half, the Highlanders and Hatters traded the lead. A layup from Abdul Lewis tied the game at 25-all with under eight minutes to play before the break. Out of the under-eight media timeout, Leo Goodman and Angel Rivera hit back-to-back three pointers to give the Hatters a six-point lead, 31-25.
Stetson would push their lead to double-digits by the end of the first half. A layup from Pegg just before the buzzer gave the Hatters a 48-35 lead after the first half.
Out of the break, NJIT scored the first four points of the half to quickly cut the deficit down to single digits. After Pegg hit a jumper with 14:43 to play to give the Hatters a nine-point lead, the Highlanders started to build momentum.
Kicked off by a layup from Tim Coleman, the Highlanders reeled off a 10-0 run to take a 57-56 lead of their own. Their lead was brief, as Stetson would retake the lead on a three from B.J. Glasford.
Down the stretch, the Highlanders would knock on the door several times, but could never retake another lead of their own. They managed to tie the game at 72-all with 2:36 to play in the game, but the Hatters wouldn’t let them take another lead.
Free throws from Myles, Rivera, and Clay Verk in the final two minutes sealed the deal for the home side, and Stetson came away with the 82-76 win over NJIT.
The story of the night was the career milestone for Pegg. While he fouled out, and didn’t have the biggest stat line on the night, it was the most noteworthy performance. He had missed the last two games, both of which were on the road. So, for him to reach the milestone in front of the home crowd is a little extra special.
Sophomore forward Derick Newton scored a game-high 21 points, to go along with his 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Divine Myles added 16 points and 8 assists in the win.
Abdul Lewis led the way for the Highlanders, as five players scored in double-figures in a losing effort. Lewis scored a team-best 20 points, on 8-of-15 shooting, and he pulled down 19 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the year, and second in his last four contests.
Damon Lynn added 17 points of his own, despite shooting just 4-of-17 from the field.
Make it three losses over the last four games for the NJIT Highlanders (9-11, 1-3). Their three-game road swing continues on Saturday against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
With the win, the Stetson Hatters (8-12, 1-3) brought an end to their three game skid. They close out a two-game home swing on Saturday afternoon against the USC Upstate Spartans.
– T. Bennett