There were no mad Hatters after Stetson's 77-75 victory over BYU Friday night.
"We deserved this," said Stetson forward Lorenzo Williams. "We had this coming. We've lost our share of the close ones."The Hatters figured to lose this one, too, and probably not close. A Florida team, they were making a one-night stop in frigid Provo before departing for a tournament in Hawaii. They had a 2-5 record, and all seven of their games had been decided by four points or less. And, finally, they were a terrible free-throw shooting team, not a good omen for a team that plays close games.
So what happened?
The Cougars held the Hatters to 40 percent shooting from the field, an average defensive night for BYU, but on the other end the Cougs shot just 42 percent. Steve Schreiner and Jared Miller, who both came into this game shooting better than 55 percent from the field, combined to hit four of 15 shots. If BYU had hit its usual 52 percent from the field, it would have put Stetson away early.
As it was, they let Stetson get away at the end.
It was a fairly uneventful game for the first 30-plus minutes. BYU jumped out to a 19-11 lead, but Stetson then went on a 9-0 run to take a 20-19 lead.
BYU Coach Roger Reid said his team deserved the credit for the Stetson comeback. "We got a nice lead and got a little complacent.," he said.
The lead seesawed the rest of the half, Stetson finally taking a 36-33 advantage into the locker room on a three-pointer by Bryant Conner.
The most interesting aspect about the halftime stats was the meager two points scored by Shawn Bradley, the Cougs" leading scorer. With Hatters bumping him and collapsing on him inside, the 7-foot-6 Bradley had a hard time even getting the ball, much less shooting it.
"We wanted to play him real physical," said Stetson's 6-9, 245-pound Derrall Dumas. "Our thinking was, the further out of the paint he was, the better."
Bradley ended up playing only 12 minutes in the first half, taking just four shots. No other Cougar, meanwhile, had more than two field goals in the half.
The Cougars came out in the second half looking like they had thoughts of putting this one away. On their first possession they got the ball into Bradley for a stuff, and back on defense he swatted away a shot by Williams.
BYU guard Mark Heslop then hit a jumper to give BYU a 37-36 lead, and Bradley followed it up with another block, this time of Frank Ireland. Two minutes into the half the scanty crowd of 10,000 was roaring like 20,000, the Cougars appeared to have the intensity they had lacked previously, and a Hatter substitute was screaming at his teammates on the floor, "That guy's killin' us, man!"
But BYU couldn't put the Hatters away, and the lead changed hands 13 times over the next 11 minutes. The crowd settled down, as did both teams.
With seven minutes left and Stetson ahead 58-56, the crowd got back into the game, but it may have helped the Hatters more. Bradley got whistled for a foul while battling Dumas for position on the offensive end, and the Cougar fans went nuts. A big bully was picking on their favorite son, and they didn't like it.
Neither did BYU Coach Roger Reid and his players. They argued the call loudly, until finally a ref hit Nathan Call with a technical. Mark Brisker made only one of two technical free throws, raising an intriguing question:
Down the stretch, would Stetson be able to hit the clutch foul shots? As a team, the Hatters had been shooting under 60 percent from the free-throw line. Considering BYU's 69.2 percent, a betting person would have been inclined to favor the Cougars.
The Cougars figured it the same way, and did their utmost to test the Hatters' free-throw mettle. Over that final seven minutes the Hats made just two field goals, but hit 14 of 19 free throws, 10 of 13 by Brisker. That's nearly 74 percent, a figure most pro teams would settle for.
BYU still had a shot, though, as Scott Moon hit two three-pointers and Heslop added another to bring the Cougs within one point with 37 seconds left. The Hatters ran 19 seconds off the clock before BYU could commit a foul, but the real bad news was that it was Heslop who got the whistle. It was his fifth, and eliminated him as one of BYU's three-point threats.
The Hatters got one of two free throws to give them a two-point lead, and then BYU set up a play to go to Moon. The play broke down, however, and Call drove and put up a 10-footer that bounced off the rim. Bradley rebounded and fired a five-foot air ball, and Brisker was fouled. He hit both for a four-point Hatter lead, and Bradley added a final stuff shot to make it 77-75.
Bradley ended up as BYU's leading scorer, with 16, rebounder, with 12, and shot-blocker, with six, but he wasn't satisfied.
"Before we've lost to some really good teams," he said. "This has to be our most disappointing loss."
Other Cougars in double figures were Kenneth Roberts, with 12, and Helsop with 11.
The Cougars play again tonight in the Marriott Center against Tulsa, at 7:30.