Freshman Alex Reed had a career night Thursday against Chattanooga, scoring a team-best 20 points while hitting four 3-pointers. However, the improved offense from the youngster wasn't enough as The Citadel men's basketball team fell 85-82 on the road to the Mocs in Southern Conference action inside McKenzie Arena.
"Congrats to Chattanooga, they certainly played better than we did. We did not have our best offensive performance tonight," said head coach Duggar Baucom. "I thought we gutted it out the last three minutes. I'm proud of our guys because they kept fighting, but we just never could get over the hump."
The Bulldogs (9-15, 4-8 SoCon) were never able to get into their normal fast-paced groove as the game was mired by 41 fouls between the two squads, with eight players finding themselves in foul trouble at some point during the game.
Sophomore Kaelon Harris scored the Bulldogs' first six points, including the first four points of the game, but the Mocs (9-17, 3-10 SoCon) took the lead with 17:43 to go in the first half and never looked back, stretching the advantage out to as many as 13 in the second half.
Chattanooga took a 10-point, 45-35 lead into halftime, but Leandro Allende cut the deficit to single digits with a 3-pointer from the left corner just nine seconds into the second period.
The Bulldogs were able to make several attempts at runs in the half, but every time the Bulldogs were able to cut into the deficit, it seemed like Chattanooga had the answer as the Mocs shot 56.9% (29-of-51) from the field, including a blistering 60.9% (14-of-23) in the second half.
With 11:45 to play in regulation, Quayson Williams hit one of his two 3-pointers in transition to pull The Citadel to within two of the Mocs at 56-54. However, Makale Foreman matched Williams' trey on the other end of the floor and a couple of possessions later, Foreman extended the lead out to seven before David Jean-Baptiste made it another 10-point game with a 3-pointer of his own.
Despite the double-digit deficit, the Bulldogs continued to fight and claw back into the game behind Frankie Johnson's 11 assists. With 3:02 to play, Johnson found Reed for a 3-pointer from the left side to pull the 'Dogs to within four points, 79-75 of the Mocs. With 2:21 to go, Johnson again found Reed in exactly the same spot, and the result was the same as Reed's career-high-tying fourth 3-pointer of the game pulled The Citadel to within one point of Chattanooga at 79-78.
After Foreman and Rodney Chatman extended the Moc lead back out to five, Harris was able to cut the lead back down to one with a pair of free throws and a layup off a missed 3-pointer with just 43 seconds left, setting up a frantic finish to the game.
With 18 seconds remaining, Chatman attempted to find a teammate on the perimeter, but with finding everyone covered, he drove into the lane and set the score at 85-82 with a layup. On the ensuing possession, Matt Frierson put up a heavily contested 3-pointer from the right side that was just off the mark, but Johnson was there for the offensive board, racing to the corner for his own 3-point attempt that also just missed as time expired.
The Bulldogs ended the game shooting 41.4% (24-of-58) from the field, including 26.5% (9-of-34) from 3-point range. The 'Dogs did manage to shoot 83.3% (25-of-30) from the charity stripe and won the turnover battle, forcing the Mocs into 14 turnovers while only committing nine of their own.
Reed led the Bulldogs with his career-high 20 points off 5-of-9 shooting (55.6%), including matching his career high for 3-pointers with four. Reed, Zane Najdawi, Frierson and Harris all converted six free throws on the night.
Najdawi, the SoCon Player of the Week, scored 14 points on the night and had one block while Johnson just missed out on a double-double with 11 assists and eight points. Harris ended the night with 12 points while Williams chipped in 10 points.
Chattanooga was led by Foreman's game-high 22 points, including six treys, in 40 minutes of work. Foreman was joined by Chatman in playing every minute of the contest. Chatman ended the night with 14 points, matching Joshua Phillips in scoring.
FAST BREAK FACTS
Thursday night continued a string of six games that have been decided by single digits for the Bulldogs. The Citadel is 3-3 during the stretch.
Alex Reed had a career-high 20 points Thursday night against Chattanooga, marking the fifth time this season the freshman has scored in double figures. It was also just the second time this season Reed has led the Bulldogs in scoring.
Thursday night marked the third game this season that Reed has converted four three-pointers. He also accomplished the feat at home against Samford and at home against Point.
Frankie Johnson's 11 assists against the Mocs set a new career-high for the sophomore point guard. Johnson has recorded at least six assists in five straight games, including 20 in the last two games combined.
Zane Najdawi has had at least one block in the last five games as he had one Thursday night against Chattanooga.
Najdawi has scored in double figures in each of the Bulldogs' last 10 games.
With his 3-pointer with 8:11 to go in the game, Matt Frierson's current streak of converting at least one 3-pointer was extended to 30 games. He now has 83 made treys on the season, matching Zach Urbanus' 2009-10 season for third all-time for most threes made in a single season.
The Citadel will next trek to Birmingham, Alabama for a game on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Samford. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. Eastern standard time.