DeLand, Fla. - Freshman Ben Vega led the Eagles with 14 points, but Stetson used a 12-0 run in the final 1:18 and an 18-0 overall run to finish the game with a 76-71 win over FGCU.
With 2:40 remaining in the game Reed Baker (Naples, Fla.) hit a 3-pointer to put the Eagles up by 13 points and seemingly close the door on an Eagles win, but the Hatters found a way to get back into the game.
The Hatters run began with a layup, a foul and a free throw by sophomore guard Mark Lohuis. Then while attempting to cross the mid court down the left side Vega (Waukegan, Ill.) stepped out of bounds under heavy pressure. Nine seconds later Garfield Blair picked up a feed from Lohuis and made a layup to get the Hatters to within eight. He followed that with a free throw at 1:18 and the lead was cut to 71-64.
With heavy pressure on the ball Stetson caused another turnover by Vega that turned into an Eric Diaz 3-pointer and the lead was four. On the ensuing inbound play Blair came up with a steal, Kris Thomas picked up the loose ball and drained another trey to make the score 71-70 FGCU with 54 seconds on the clock.
The Hatters continued their heavy ball pressure and proceeded to run off six more points in the final 34 seconds en route to the five point win.
Stetson was cold from the floor to open the game. Coming out of the second media timeout the Hatters were 4-of-17 from the field and trailed the Eagles 18-9 on the scoreboard.
FGCU was leading 32-22 with 3:57 remaining in the first half but a pair of miscues cost the Eagles their big lead. At 3:57 Diaz stepped in and took a charge from Derrick O’Neil (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and then hustled down at the other end where he took a pass down low, faked Kyle Marks (West Palm Beach, Fla.) up in the air and drew a hard, intentional foul. He missed both of his free throws, but Mark Lohuis and Tim Lang followed with a pair of treys and the Hatters were within five at 32-28. An A.J. Smith trey with 26 seconds remaining finished the Hatter run and sent the teams into the locker room with the Eagles up by just one at 34-33.
The second half started off like the first. FGCU came out aggressive and went on a quick 12-2 run through the first 4:47 of the half to give the Eagles a 46-35 lead with 15:13 remaining.
For the game the Eagles had four players hit in double figures. Vega led the team with 14 points. Delvin Franklin (Houston, Tex.) and Baker both finished with 13 points. Marks picked up a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. O'Neil also had a solid game for FGCU grabbing a career-high 16 boards and scoring seven points.
Next up for FGCU are the Florida Gators on Wednesday night, December 10 at 8:00 p.m. Dave Moulton will broadcast the action on ESPN AM 770.