Jalen Blackmon spearheads longshot Stetson into matchup vs. Goliath — No. 1 overall seed UConn

Stetson point guard Stephan Swenson knows it when he sees it.

Whether it is the look in teammate Jalen Blackmon’s eyes, or his motions — or maybe it’s just some sort of innate sense between buddies — but when he’s in the zone Swenson is well aware.

And, he also knows exactly what to do.

“Absolutely and it makes everybody’s job easier because we know that when he shoots it, it’s going in the hoop and he’s making plays,” said Swenson, a senior from Belgium. “So we just kind of space out the floor and execute for him to get it going.

“When he’s on, it just feels like we’re unbeatable. All we got to do is get stops on defense and get the ball to him.”

They will be looking for Blackmon to get it going Friday, when Stetson takes the floor at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the school’s first NCAA Tournament game. The Hatters have the daunting task, taking on No. 1 overall seed and defending national champion UConn (CBS, 2:45 p.m.).

Stetson coach Donnie Jones says when Blackmon gets in his zone “it makes me a better coach.”

“It’s really fun to watch. He’s got a gift. I’ve coached 23 NBA players, so I know what that looks like,” Jones said. “You just got to know when to give him the ball and turn him loose and let him play through it with confidence … and the bigger the stage, the better.”

The Hatters know it will be a tall order to pull off the upset.

“That’s as big a stage as it gets,” Jones smiled.

All one has to do is ask Austin Peay about Blackmon. The Governors found out March 10 in the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship. Blackmon went off for a career-high 43 points, 34 coming in the second half as he willed the Hatters to the title and an automatic NCAA bid with a 94-91 victory.

“Coach Jones put me in a lot of great situations in that game and I had the ball in my hands a lot,” said Blackmon, who averages a team-high 21.5 points per game and shoots 39% from 3. “I’m always in good situations, so I’m just trusting the coaching staff, and they wanted me to be more aggressive in the second half so that’s what I did.”

And he did it in a way that was so fluid, so simple that that it was just like a day on the playground. He didn’t even realize what he had just accomplished.

“When they told me I had 43, I had no idea I had scored that many,” Blackmon said. “I was just trying to do as much as possible to win the game.”

His teammates will do anything to get him the ball.

“They’ve got a lot of trust in him,” Jones said. “That’s what’s been great about this team. They know what their strengths are. There are not a lot of egos and they just do whatever it takes to help us win.”

Per Synergy Sports, of 421 jump shots taken by Blackmon half come off catch-and-shoot and he has an effective FG accuracy of 63.8% in that situation, factoring in 3s being worth more than 2s, which is exceptional. When unguarded on those jumpers, that eFG climbs to 75.5%.

Off the dribble his accuracy dips to an eFG of 42.7%, which means the Huskies likely will look to lock and trail to run him off the the 3-point line, forcing him to shoot more on the move and other Hatters to beat them.

Swenson averages 13.8 points but only shoots 40.8% from the field. Center Aubin Gateretse scores 11.8. Alec Oglesby, who chips in 10.9 points, attempts the second-most 3s on the team behind Blackmon and makes 40.7%.

Blackmon watched the NCAA Tournament championship game last April, when UConn dismantled San Diego State 76-59.

“They have a lot of great players and I’ve watched UConn for a while now,” he said, “so it’s kind of surreal getting to play against them in this big of a game.”

Before he transferred to Stetson, following his freshman season at Grand Canyon University, Blackmon had heard of the tight-knit group. It’s better than he had imagined.

“I didn’t know it was going to be anything like this,” said Blackmon, a junior. “These guys are my brothers and I will have communication with these guys for the rest of my life.”

And it’s that cohesiveness that Jones loves about his team.

“Jalen brings in that talent here, but he also brings in humility to be a good teammate with the way he treats people,” he said. “It makes them bring him into the circle even more.”

Chris Hays covers high school and college sports, as well as college football recruiting. He can be reached via email at