Stetson head coach discusses his 1-word message at halftime amid blowout to No. 1 UConn


BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For No. 16 Stetson, their first-ever March Madness game was practically over before it started.

Defending champion UConn, the top seed in the entire NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, got out to an 8-0 lead, led by 20 halfway through the first half and owned a 52-19 lead after the first 20 minutes.

The Huskies’ lead would eventually reach 39 in their 91-52 victory, but admittedly for the Hatters, the game was pretty much over at halftime.

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Stetson Hatters head coach Donnie Jones and guard Stephan Swenson look on during their NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game against the Connecticut Huskies at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

At that point, Stetson head coach Donnie Jones needed to change his team’s mindset, as his guys were “discouraged.” He did that, he said, by writing just one word on the whiteboard in their locker room: 

“Pride.”

“My biggest thing with them was it’s going to be how we finish today, and we’re going to be proud when we walk off this floor,” Jones said after the game. 

“‘Pride’ was what I wrote on the board. Did not care about the score at that point, just wanted our guys to go out and show the level that we can play at that got us here, go out and have no regret in these last 20 minutes,” he explained.

“There’s no loss with our group tonight. The victory’s already been won.”

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley and Stetson Hatters head coach Donnie Jones

Stetson Hatters head coach Donnie Jones, right, greets Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley after their first-round game in the 2024 NCAA Tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

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When asked if his guys showed him pride in the second half, Jones said they “definitely” did. UConn outscored Stetson in the second half 39-33, but it was a far cry from the first half.

“That’s who we were all season. This group was a unique group, a group that never quit regardless of the score. They’ve been very resilient. There’s a lot of tears in that locker room, there’s a lot of respect in that locker room, and these guys truly love each other. That’s something we don’t see in teams a lot. A lot of guys are individuals, they play for themselves, and even when some teams are winning, they’re not tight like this. But this group really came together and really believed,” he said.

Stetson head coach Donnie Jones at presser

Stetson coach Donnie Jones talks to the media at a press conference at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

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UConn will face No. 9 Northwestern on Sunday after the Wildcats’ wild overtime victory against the No. 8 FAU Owls on Friday.

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