Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 27, 2002
Wilson’s 19 leads Trojans past pesky Hatters
By HEATH THOMAS
Troy State men’s basketball head coach Don Maestri knew the Trojans wouldn’t see the same Stetson team it did in a 94-68 rout earlier this season in DeLand, Fla.
And after a 74-71 road-loss to Jacksonville and a sluggish performance in a win over Mercer Wednesday, TSU didn’t appear to be the same team either.
But the Trojans shrugged off another shaky performance and a slow start, escaping Trojan Arena with a 68-65 win over the Hatters to set up a showdown with Jacksonville Monday night for the top-spot in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
"We knew they would play us totally different this time around. They did a good job with their offense, they did a good job defending us. They kept the game close, which gave them a chance to win it at the end," he said. "Thank goodness we made some big plays down the stretch.
Rushing made a big basket when we were spreading the ball to put us up by five and then Pemberton made a great hustle play down there to tie it up and give us the jump ball when we had the arrow. Those little things, I thought, were the key in the end."
We’re not playing real well now, if we can’t play better than we did tonight or against Mercer, then we stand no chance against Jacksonville."
"When you just see them go through warm-ups, and see their size and their athleticism and then shoot the basketball, you’re going to be stunned. They are an excellent basketball team. And we’re going to have to play a great basketball game. If we don’t, there’s no way."
The Hatters opened the game with 13 unanswered points and held TSU scoreless until the 16:27 mark and forced the Trojans to play catch-up for the most of the first half. Lacedrick Pettway’s three-pointer cut the deficit to 15-9 with 14:47 left in the half. TSU used a 9-2 run midway through the half to tie the game at 22 behind a three from Robert Rushing and two baskets from Lovell Craig and grabbed its first lead on a dunk by Marcus Millhouse.
Millhouse knew the Trojans would bounce back from the early deficit.
"I really wasn’t worried about it because I knew with the senior leadership of Donnie, Lemayn and Robert, they were going to keep us up."
But Stetson regained the lead on a three-pointer by Ravii Givens with 5:53 remaining and Givens knocked down another jumper with five seconds left as the Hatters scored the final six points of the half to open an eight-point halftime lead.
The Trojans hit just two-of-10 trey’s in the first half and Stetson outrebounded TSU 22-16, eight coming on the offensive end.
Pemberton said the coaches made a nice adjustment at halftime to negate the rebounding edge, especially from 6-7, 260 pound Santos Hampton.
"It’s hard to rebound when you have someone that big and that strong in the middle, but we decided in the second half everybody would crash the offensive boards, maybe get some tip-in’s and second-chance shots and keep the rebounding a little bit closer."
The Hatter advantage grew to 10 on a three-pointer from Derrick DeWitt, who lead the Hatters with 16 points, but TSU countered with a 16-5 run, capped by a bucket from Herbert Evans to reclaim the lead, 49-48 with 12:08 remaining in the game.
The game went back-and-forth for the next 8:35 as the lead switched hands six more times, with three ties as neither team would lead by more than four points.
TSU grabbed the lead for good at 64-63 with 3:31 left on a putback by Pettway, but the Hatters still had a chance to tie with seven seconds left. But McConnell’s three-point attempt wasn’t even close and Ben Fletcher grabbed the loose ball as time expired.
The Trojans outrebounded the Hatters 17-13 in the second half and held a 32-24 edge in points in the paint. TSU also scored 22 points off 14 Stetson turnovers.
Wilson scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 37 minutes of action for TSU. Rushing was the only other Trojan in double-figures with 10 as TSU moved to 12-6 overall and 8-3 in the A-Sun.