The Citadel men's basketball team picked up a huge come-from-behind, 84-82 win over James Madison Tuesday night inside McAlister Field House as sophomores Frankie Johnson and Kaelon Harris drilled a pair of three-pointers and the Bulldog defense came up with two big stops.
With 2:00 left in regulation, the Bulldogs (4-5) found themselves down by four, 78-82 following a Matt Lewis dunk for JMU (3-7). The momentum had gone back and forth between the Bulldogs and the Dukes for much of the second half and it appeared to have swung in favor of JMU for good.
Then, Johnson banked in his crucial three-pointer from the right side of the arc, pulling the home team to within one point of the visiting Dukes.
On the ensuing JMU possession, freshman Derek Webster, Jr. drew a charge from DeVelle Phillips, his fifth foul of the game, giving the Bulldogs the ball back with 32 seconds left. Plenty of time for Duggar Baucom's feverish style of play.
Out of the 30-second break for Phillips to sub out, the Bulldogs streaked down the court and Harris calmly hit the game-winning three from the left side off a feed from nobody else than Johnson just in front of his own bench with 22 seconds remaining.
The Dukes would go on to miss a go-ahead layup of their own with 12 seconds remaining, and with three seconds left, Darius Banks heaved up a desperate half-court shot, but it fell short as time expired, giving the Bulldogs the exciting two-point victory.
"Derek's charge changed everything and gave us that opportunity (at the end)," said Baucom. "I thought the guys played so well the first half and first eight minutes of the second half, it would have been very disappointing not to pull it out. The main thing is when we looked in their eyes, they believed. During that last timeout, they believed and then they executed with a little set that we ran perfect and Kaelon got the three. You just have to credit our guys because they made the plays there at the end."
The Bulldogs opened the game on a 7-0 run before the Dukes finally got on the scoreboard. From there, The Citadel worked to extend the lead out to double digits as Tariq Simmons hit a layup with 10:35 to go in the period, extending the Bulldog lead out to 11 at 29-18.
However, JMU kept things interesting, pulling to within two, 33-31 with 6:16 to go in the half as Greg Jones hit a pair of free throws, but the Dogs pulled away down the stretch of the half with freshman Alex Reed capping the period with a three-pointer to put The Citadel up by 10 at 48-38.
The second half saw the Bulldogs come out ready to play as they once again scored the first six points of the half, eventually claiming a 17-point lead three separate times, the last coming with 13:02 to play.
When Stuckey Mosley hit a three-pointer with 12:38 to go, it marked a huge shift in momentum for JMU, which went on from there with a 14-4 run to close to within four with 7:53 remaining in the game.
The Dukes were able to take the lead for the first time in the game with 5:17 remaining as Lewis hit a pair of free throws, and extended their lead to seven, 80-73 with 2:55 to play.
For the game, the Bulldogs shot an impressive 55.9% (33-of-59) from the field, including a solid 45.8% (11-of-24) from three-point range. The Citadel shot at least 50% in both halves, including a blistering 61.3% (19-of-31) in the opening stanza.
JMU finished the game shooting 41.2% (28-of-68) from the field, rebounding from a 34.4% (11-of-32) performance in the first half to shoot 47.2% (17-of-36) in the second. The Dukes hit just eight of their 25 three-point attempts (32.0%).
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures Tuesday night led by 15 points from both Zane Najdawi and Johnson. Najdawi went 7-of-12 (58.3%) from the field while Johnson hit on 54.5% (6-of-11) of his shots, including two of his three three-point attempts.
Simmons scored 12 points to go along with a game-high six assists and four steals to go along with a team-high five rebounds. Johnson was just one assist behind with five of his own.
Rob Johnson and Harris rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Bulldogs with 11 and 10 points respectively.
The Dukes were led by Mosley's game-high 19 points off 6-of-14 shooting (42.9%) while Phillips ended the game with a double-double off 10 points and 11 boards, including five off the offensive glass. Three other JMU players ended the game in double figures, including Banks with 17, Joey McLean with 13 and Lewis with 10.
FAST BREAK FACTS
Tuesday's win over JMU marks just the second time this season that the Bulldogs have pulled out a victory when trailing with 5:00 to play. The other time came on Saturday, Nov. 18 at High Point when the Bulldogs won 79-77.
The Bulldogs lost the turnover battle Tuesday, committing 18 while forcing 17 turnovers by JMU. It is the first time this season that the Bulldogs have lost the turnover battle and won.
The Bulldogs shot 61.3% (19-of-31) in the first half. It marked the first time since Nov. 28, 2016, against Presbyterian that the Bulldogs shot 60% or better in the first half of a game.
The Bulldogs converted 11 of their 24 three-point attempts against JMU, marking the seventh time this season The Citadel has made at least 10 treys.
Freshman Tariq Simmons scored 12 points Tuesday night, marking the seventh time this season he has scored in double figures, the most by anybody on the team.
Sophomore Frankie Johnson's five assists Tuesday matched his season-high set at Virginia Tech on Nov. 12. His career high for assists was nine set last season against UNCG on March 4, 2017.
The Bulldogs will be off for eight days to focus on exams before returning to action on Thursday, Dec. 14. The Citadel will travel to Buies Creek, North Carolina for a 7 p.m. tipoff against Campbell on the Big South Network. Following the contest with the Camels, the Bulldogs will return home for the final time before the holiday break with a game on Saturday, Dec. 16 against Point. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m.