The Stetson Hatters (7-10) had the Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU) Eagles right where they wanted them after 39 minutes. However, a wacky last minute cost Stetson a chance to start off conference play with a bang as FGCU (12-5) pulled out a 89-88 victory.
It was an emotional loss – one that Stetson head coach Corey Williams says he won’t let his team dwell on.
“That’s supposed to be the best team in our league and [we] had them down,” Williams said. “The same work you put in for Florida Gulf Coast, now you have to put in for every opponent that you play.”
The Hatters shot 65.5 percent in the second half on their way to scoring 52 points – 30 of which came in the last 9:33 of the game.
However, the story of the game came with less than a minute and half remaining where eight-point lead vanished into thin air in large part due to Stetson junior guard Angel Rivera fouling out.
“That’s one of our primary ball-handlers and when he got out of the game it made it a little tough,” Williams said. “Now guys have to step up and handle that ball and make the right decision. We didn’t do a good job of that.”
With 1:21 remaining, junior guard Luke Doyle hit a three-pointer to put the Hatters up 85-77. That’s when things started to get hairy.
On FGCU’s next possession, junior guard Christian Terrell knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead to five. After a Stetson free-throw extended the lead to six, senior forward Demetris Morant hit two free throws to make it a four-point game.
The Hatters turned the ball over before they could get it pass halfcourt. Eagles’ guard Brandon Goodwin was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit two free throws to bring the score to 86-84.
Stetson turned the ball over again on its next possession and Goodwin drove down the lane unencumbered to hit a layup to tie the game with nine seconds remaining in the game.
This is where the game turned really crazy. Hatters junior guard B.J. Glasford was able to sneak behind the Eagles’ defense to score an uncontested layup with 4 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds Goodwin was able to get the ball just past half court where he drew a foul on a three-point attempt with .6 seconds remaining.
Goodwin sank all three. On the last possession, Doyle’s desperation heave actually hit the rim.
Then there was the post-game handshake line. Words turned into an altercation that almost spilled into the locker rooms as the two teams had to be separated.
“I told my guys the thing that you have to do is you can’t let your emotions rev up to high,” Williams said.
Junior guard Divine Myles led the Hatters with 21 points while Doyle and sophomore forward Derick Newton both chipped in 18. Goodwin led the Eagles with 20 while sophomore guard Rayjon Tucker helped with 19.
Stetson returns to action on the 12th when it travels to Nashville to play its first road conference game at Lipscomb. FGCU returns to action the same evening at Kennesaw St.