HIGH POINT, NC - With The Citadel basketball team down 15 points with 13:49 to go in the game, Preston Parks stepped up and showed why he was the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year last season. The sophomore guard hit three crucial threes in the second half, including one to tie the game with just under 5:00 to play, and scored 16 points in the period to lift the Bulldogs to a 79-77 win over the Panthers inside the Millis Center.
"I loved the fight in our guys today," said head coach Duggar Baucom. "I thought (Leandro Allende) came in and gave us a huge lift, Preston scored something like 16 of our 30 in our 30-7 run there in the second half, and the kids all just believed and that's the battle. We had a lot of freshmen out on the floor at the end of the game and everybody contributed. I couldn't be more proud of the guys for having active hands on defense, they followed our game plan, they were attentive during timeouts and they stepped up and made free throws – we didn't make them all, but we made enough."
One of the big keys for the Bulldog victory was forcing 20 Panther turnovers with 12 coming in the second half alone. The Bulldogs (2-2) keyed in on the Panthers (1-1) and forced High Point to use up the entire shot clock on most of their possessions. The Bulldogs turned those 20 turnovers into 20 points.
The Bulldogs opened the game on an 11-4 run, including five points from Kaelon Harris and back-to-back three-pointers from Matt Frierson. From there, the Panthers were able to close the gap up and things remained back-and-forth for the rest of the opening half with High Point taking a 39-34 lead into halftime.
The Panthers then came out and dominated the early going of the second half, establishing a 15-point, 58-43 lead with 12:32 to go.
It was slow going at first for the Bulldogs to chip away at the lead, but Parks hit a long three-pointer with just under 10:00 left to play and the Bulldogs never trailed by double-digit points again.
With 5:27 to go, Harris swiped the ball from High Point's Andre Fox and streaked down the court for the layup. A few minutes later, Parks and Harris hit back-to-back treys, giving the Bulldogs a three-point, 68-65 lead. The Bulldogs would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of regulation.
Freshman Rob Johnson gave the Bulldogs an eight-point, 76-68 lead with 1:27 to go as he converted an old-fashioned three-point play, but the Panthers made things interesting down the stretch as Justyn Mutts hit a layup with just four seconds to go to cut the Bulldog lead to just one at 78-77.
Tariq Simmons was fouled on the ensuing inbound and went to the line with just under three seconds remaining and confidently hit the first of two free throws. He then purposefully banked the second off the backboard, forcing High Point to send up a three-quarter-court shot. The ball ended up well away from the basket, and the Bulldogs capped off the three-game road swing with a win.
The Citadel bounced back from shooting just 36.1% (13-of-36) in the first half, shooting 50.0% (14-of-28) in the second stanza to finish the game shooting 42.2% (27-of-64). After connecting on just four of their 15 (26.7%) three-pointers in the opening half, the Bulldogs hit six of their 10 (60.0%) attempts from long range in the second half.
High Point ended the game shooting 46.2% (30-of-65) from the field and was a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line.
Three Bulldogs ended the game with double-digit points led by Parks' 18 off 7-of-16 (43.8%) from the field. Parks scored just two points in the first half and added two assists and two steals in 26 minutes of work.
Harris ended the game with 13 points off 5-of-11 (45.5%) shooting while Simmons scored 11 points, including two three-pointers and four assists.
High Points' Fox led all scorers with 24 points and was perfect from both the free throw line (6-of-6) as well as beyond the arc (4-of-4).
Behind Fox, Brandon Kamga scored 13 with Jahaad Proctor and Ricky Madison each netting 11 points.
-per The Citadel Athletics