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DeLAND, Fla. — Things always seem to look bad for the Stetson basketball team, until East Tennessee State shows up.
The Hatters dragged the Bucs into another grind-it-out affair Thursday night in the Edmunds Center and beat them 64-58 to snap a four-game losing streak in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
For the Bucs, it was just another lackluster performance in a series full of them.
“I don’t know what it is,” said senior forward Hunter Harris, who led the Bucs with 13 points. “It’s a mindset, something that everybody has to have. Seems like we don’t have it against this team.”
Stetson (4-14, 2-4) scored the last six points after Jalen Riley hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 1:35 remaining. The Bucs (9-9, 2-3) had three shots to tie the game in the final minute, opting for 3-pointers instead of quick twos.
None of the shots was close, and the Bucs suffered their third loss in the last four games.
“I would have loved a two there,” said ETSU coach Murry Bartow. “We’re sitting out there settling for threes with plenty of time on the clock. A couple of them were good looks, but they didn’t go down.”
The teams have split during the regular season the last five years, and most of those years Stetson has been near the bottom of the A-Sun standings. Corey Williams is now the third head coach here in four years.
It never seems to matter against ETSU.
“They obviously have a new coach and a new team, and we have a new team,” said Bartow. “These guys don’t even know the history.”
And yet it keeps repeating itself.
Stetson trailed by seven with 16 minutes to play, but the Hatters put together a 12-3 run to reclaim the lead. Neither team led by more than four the rest of the way until the closing seconds, when the Hatters went to the line and made 4 of 6 free throws. Willie Green had given them the lead for good on a short jump hook in the lane with 1:17 to play.
There were 11 ties and 12 lead changes in the game.
“It came down to a five-minute game, and we’ve won our share of those so far,” said Bartow. “This one got us. They picked our defense apart and were much more efficient than we were on the other end.”
The Bucs shot 39 percent from the field -- they were 8 of 20 on 3-pointers -- and only got to the line 10 times. Stetson outscored them there 16-8.
Riley finished with 12 points, and Rashawn Rembert and Lester Wilson had 10 apiece for ETSU.
Green led the Hatters with 15 points, while Kentwan Smith scored 13 and Brian Pegg 11. Green, a 6-6 senior, handed out five assists and blocked four shots.
“I thought we played tougher tonight,” said Williams, the former Florida State assistant. “Defensively we really stepped up, and it’s not easy against this team. They can hit you from everywhere.”
The Bucs now move on to Fort Myers for a game Saturday night at Florida Gulf Coast. The defending champion Eagles remained tied with Mercer atop the conference standings with a 63-60 victory over USC Upstate.