Junior Zane Najdawi scored 20 second-half points Thursday night, showing a glimpse of the player from last season who averaged 15.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, but it was not enough as The Citadel basketball team fell 107-91 to Samford at McAlister Field House in Southern Conference (SoCon) action.
"We can't dig a 24-point hole (for ourselves), especially against a good team (like Samford)," said head coach Duggar Baucom. "They came in here and they were 0-8 on the road and Scott (Padgett) certainly had them playing well. Credit them for playing well, but we're not going to play very many teams that go and make 18-for-32 from (three-point range). There are days where we don't even shoot that well with nobody guarding us, so you have to credit them for playing very well."
Samford (7-10, 3-1 SoCon) led for all but 1:04 of the game, shooting at a blistering 61.9% (39-of-63) clip from the field, including 65.5% (19-of-29) in the first half and 56.3% (18-of-32) from three-point range.
The Citadel (5-11, 0-4 SoCon) managed to shoot 45.8% (33-of-72) for the game after shooting 54.8% (23-of-42) in the second half.
The homestanding Bulldogs in white were able to force Samford into seven turnovers in the first five minutes of the game, but the visiting Bulldogs in red still found a way to ease out to a five-point, 14-9 lead with 15:00 to play in the first half. In comparison, Samford forced The Citadel into six turnovers in the final 15 minutes of the first half and scored 18 points off 11 Citadel turnovers in the opening stanza. Samford committed just four more turnovers in the period, stretching the lead out to as many as 26 before settling for a 24-point, 55-31 lead at halftime.
Out of the break, The Citadel began to steadily chip away at the lead as Najdawi, Hayden Brown and Alex Reed combined for eight points in the first two minutes of the second period, but every time the 'Dogs seemed to be closing the gap, Samford found an answer. The Citadel was able to close to within 14 when Frankie Johnson completed a three-point play with 5:07 remaining, but Samford once again went on a run to widen the gap back out.
The Citadel Bulldogs entered Thursday night's game leading the nation in three-pointers made per game at 11.9 per outing and added to those numbers with 14 treys, including five from Matt Frierson, who finished the game with 18 points, including a perfect 3-of-3 performance at the free throw line. Reed was second on the team with four three-pointers as he scored a career-high 19 points in 27 minutes of work.
Najdawi led the 'Dogs with 21 points off 9-of-12 (.750) shooting. Kaelon Harris rounded out the quartet of cadet-athletes to lead The Citadel in double-digit points with 11 to go along with six rebounds.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson led all scorers with 26 points, including 16 in the first half alone. Denzel-Dyson hit five three-pointers, second only to Triston Chambers' six treys. Chambers shot 6-of-8 (.750) from three-point range and scored 24 points while Justin Coleman recorded a double-double off 13 points and 13 assists.
FAST BREAK FACTS
The 21 turnovers forced by The Citadel Thursday night is the 21st-most turnovers by a SoCon team during the regular season against the 'Dogs. The 21 turnovers were the most by a regular-season SoCon opponent since Samford turned the ball over 23 times last season on Jan. 14, 2017.
The Citadel entered Thursday night's game leading the nation with 11.9 three-pointers made per game. The Bulldogs converted 14 against Samford, bringing the season average up to 12.1 per contest. The 'Dogs have converted 193 three-pointers so far this season and have converted at least 12 three-pointers in each of the last six games.
Zane Najdawi led the Bulldogs in scoring Thursday night with 21 points, including 20 in the second half. The 21 points marked the first time since Tuesday, Nov. 21 against Trinity Baptist that the junior forward scored at least 20 points. It was the 12th time in his career that Najdawi has accomplished the feat.
Junior Matt Frierson pulled to within two made three-pointers of Dante Terry (2002-06) and Donny McLendon (1999-2003) for eighth all-time in program history for career made three-pointers. Frierson boasts 158 made treys and has extended his current streak out to 22 games with at least one made three-pointer and five straight games with multiple treys converted.
After scoring just 13 combined points in the Bulldogs' last two games, freshman Alex Reed netted 19 points Thursday night, a career-high for the Raleigh, N.C. native. Reed has now scored in double figures in four of the last six games, averaging 12.3 points per contest during that stretch.
The Bulldogs will next welcome Chattanooga to McAlister Field House on Saturday, Jan. 13. Saturday's tilt against the Mocs will be at 1 p.m.