Owls grab first conference win against Hatters

Owls grab first conference win against Hatters

Chris Raimondi—Sports Editor

Damien Wilson netted a career-high 28 points to lead Kennesaw State in Thursday night’s 88-82 win over Stetson.

The Owls (6-14, 1-3) held a 10 point lead with 1:42 left in the game, but the Hatters (5-14, 0-4) went on a 13-5 run to close the gap to 2 points with 19 seconds left. Delbert Love and Nigel Pruitt managed to sink all of their ensuing free throws to ice the game and KSU walked off the court with their first Atlantic Sun win of the season.

“I love Damien Wilson,” KSU head coach Jimmy Lallathin said. “I think he’s going to be a great player for us. We are all doing pretty well offensively right now, but we need to commit to the defensive end.”

It was a game of runs for both sides throughout the contest. KSU jumped out to a 13-8 lead, 8 points coming from Wilson, when both sides began to trade baskets. The Hatters began to take control after a Brian Pegg layup for Stetson brought the game to 28-28 with 5:13 before the half.

Nigel Pruitt scored 17 points in Thursday's 88-82 win over Stetson. Photo by Matt Boggs|The Sentinel

Nigel Pruitt scored 17 points in Thursday’s 88-82 win over Stetson. Photo by Matt Boggs|The Sentinel

The Owls surrendered a 9-0 run in the next 3 minutes before a Willy Kouassi layup ended the KSU drought. Kouassi and Wilson would each add another layup within a minute to play to cut the halftime deficit to 3 at 37-34, in favor of the Hatters.

KSU came out firing in the second half with a trio of 3-pointers, one from Yonel Brown and two from Pruitt, one coming the old-fashioned way. Stetson, however, answered every Owl bucket with one of their own and never allowed KSU to build a lead larger than three through the first nine minutes of the second half.

After a Stetson jumper with 12:20 to go marked the ninth tie score of the game, the Hatters called a timeout. The Owls surrendered a free throw to Kentwan Smith out of the break to go down by one, but it would be the final time KSU would trail. On their next possession, Orlando Coleman flushed a Brown missed layup with a put-back dunk that ignited the crowd and sent the Owls on a 7-0 run to take control.

“Our big point of emphasis coming into tonight was getting three changes and moving the basketball,” Lallathin said. “I thought we shared the ball very well tonight.” The Owls finished with 12 assists as a team.

KSU built their lead up to 10 with 1:42 remaining before Stetson began to truly threaten the Owls. Smith drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead to seven at the 1:30 mark and took the ball the length of the court on Stetson’s next possession for a layup and a foul which made it a four point game with the made free throw.

The lead was pushed back to seven after a handful of KSU free throws when Divine made a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left that made it a five point contest. Brown was called for an offensive foul during Stetson’s press, and the Hatters capitalized with a 3-pointer that made it a 2 point game with 19 seconds left. Love and Pruitt were both fouled in the remaining time and each made their pair of free throws to cap the 88-82 win.

Along with Wilson’s 28, Brown had 21 points and Pruitt put in 17. Kouassi finished with 10 rebounds, 4 points and 2 blocked shots while Coleman had 7 points and 10 boards. Love led the Owls in assists with 6.

Next up KSU hosts Florida Gulf Coast (13-7, 3-1) Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Convocation Center.

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