Junior forward Zane Najdawi continued his recent string of great performances as he scored a game-high 25 points in 31 minutes of work Thursday night, including the Bulldogs' first 15 points, as The Citadel men's basketball team fell 72-58 at UNCG in Southern Conference (SoCon) action inside the Greensboro Coliseum.
"There were so many open threes that we just couldn't get to fall. I thought our ball movement was decent and were able to get it back to within 10, but then we had that flurry of turnovers against their press and you just can't do that against a good team," said head coach Duggar Baucom. "You have to credit UNCG, they have a lot of size. I thought defensively, to hold them to 40% shooting and 36% from three wasn't awful, but we only forced 14 turnovers and had 15 ourselves."
The Bulldogs (6-12, 1-5 SoCon) were once again able to minimize one of the better scoring threats in the SoCon as they held Francis Alonso to just three points off 1-of-4 shooting. However, similar to the Wofford game when the Bulldogs held Fletcher Magee to just 11 points and one three-pointer, other UNCG players were able to step up and lead the Spartans (13-5, 4-1 SoCon) to the win.
Marvin Smith led a quartet of Spartans in double figure scoring with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but Smith connected on just four of his 17 attempts from the field (.235). Isaiah Miller came off the bench to score 13 points and was better from the field as he connected on 54.5% (6-of-11) of his field goal attempts. Demetrius Troy and James Dickey rounded out the leading scorers for UNCG with 12 and 10 points respectively.
The Spartans were held to just 40.6% shooting (26-of-64) for the game, including 37.9% (11-of-29) in the second half, but UNCG connected on 11 of 30 three-point attempts (36.7%) while the Bulldogs managed to hit just seven three-pointers. The Citadel shot 38.9% (21-of-54) from the field and was held to 24.1% (7-of-29) from three-point range.
The Citadel was led by Najdawi's 25 points and seven rebounds. The Midlothian, Virginia, native has averaged 27.6 points over the last three games while shooting 75.6% (34-of-45) from the field during the stretch. Thursday night, Najdawi connected on 10 of his 16 field goal attempts (62.5%), including two three-pointers.
Fellow junior Matt Frierson continued his own stretch of strong outings Thursday as he netted 17 points, including hitting four three-pointers. Frierson has now scored in double digits in four straight games, averaging 20.5 points and 5.5 three-pointers per game in the four contests.
The Bulldogs managed to hold UNCG to no field goals in the final 3:28 of the first half (0-of-5), cutting a 17-point deficit to just 11, 41-30 as Leandro Allende hit a jumper in the paint seconds before time expired. Allende ended the game with six points.
The Spartans' field goal drought continued for another 3:10 into the second half, allowing the Bulldogs to remain close, but with 9:45 to play in regulation, Malik Massey gave UNCG a 22-point, 62-40 lead with a three-pointer. From there, the Spartans cruised to the victory.
FAST BREAK FACTS
The Bulldogs' 58 points were the fewest scored by a Bulldog team since the 2014-15 squad netted 59 at ETSU on Jan. 22, 2015.
With seven made three-pointers Thursday night at UNCG, the Bulldogs saw their streak of seven straight games with at least 12 treys come to an end. However, the Bulldogs have made at least five three-pointers in 83 straight games and have made at least one three-pointer in 346 games in a row.
Junior Zane Najdawi has come on strong in recent games, averaging 27.6 points per game in the last three contests while shooting 75.6% (34-of-45) from the field with 6.0 rebounds per game.
Junior Matt Frierson extended his current streak out to 24 straight games with at least one three-pointer made. He has also made at least four three-pointers in four straight games and has converted multiple treys in six straight games.
Frierson has averaged 20.5 points and 5.5 three-pointers per game in the last four games.
The Citadel will next head up to VMI on Saturday, Jan. 20 for a 1 p.m. tipoff. The game against the Keydets will be nationally televised by Stadium Broadcasting and will be available in Charleston on WCIV, digital channel 36.1. The game will also be available on WACH-2 in Columbia, digital channel 57.2.