Three weeks ago, The Citadel men's basketball team went blow-for-blow with ETSU, but ultimately fell by just two points at home to the top team in the conference. Tuesday night, the Bulldogs went on the road, shook off the rough last four games and came away victorious, defeating the Buccaneers 84-82 inside Freedom Hall.
The Bulldogs (10-18, 5-11 SoCon) have now beaten three of the top four teams in the Southern Conference at least once this season and broke an 11-game home winning streak for the Bucs (23-6, 14-2 SoCon). ETSU was also riding a 13-game home winning streak against SoCon opponents with the last home SoCon loss for the Bucs coming last season on Jan. 12, 2017 against UNCG. The Bucs entered the game first in the SoCon, fifth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll and No. 58 in the RPI.
With the two-point win, the Bulldogs have now won at least 10 games for the third time under head coach Duggar Baucom. It is the first time that The Citadel has had three consecutive seasons with double-digit wins since the stretch from the 2008-09 season to the 2010-11 season, but Baucom becomes the first coach since Pat Dennis (1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96) to hit the 10-win mark in three consecutive seasons.
"We played them close at our place about three weeks ago and we finally got over the hump," said Baucom. "I couldn't be more happy for my guys because it's been a rough 72 hours since we lost to VMI at home. I've been very hard on the guys, but they have responded and showed a lot of resiliency. (ETSU) has so many weapons; they shoot the three very well, they're huge, they're long, they're athletic, and they're quick. It's always a challenge when we play those guys, but we were able to come in here tonight and play a little bit loose because we're essentially playing with house money. But for us to play two really close games with them this season, I couldn't be more proud."
The game was a close one from start to finish with the largest lead coming with just 2:24 left in the first half when ETSU went up by 11, 43-32. However, with 2:19 to play in the period, Matt Frierson hit his lone 3-pointer of the game to begin to pull the 'Dogs back to within striking distance and Frankie Johnsonclosed out the half by hitting a buzzer-beating trey, setting the deficit at just four, 46-42.
The second half started with a Zane Najdawi dunk followed by a Kaelon Harris 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up by one, 47-46 almost two minutes in, and The Citadel never tailed from there.
After Jason Williams tied the game at 52-all with a 3-pointer with 15:49 to play, the Bulldogs went on an eight-point run to extend things out, but the Bucs matched with a run of their own to tie things back up.
With 6:05 to play in the game, Quayson Williams hit a jumper at the free throw line to give the 'Dogs a six-point, 73-67 lead and nearly three minutes later, he was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Williams converted all three free throws to set the Citadel advantage at seven, 76-69.
With a minute left, David Burrell tied the game up at 76-76 with a dunk that brought the home crowd to life, but, Najdawi quieted the crowd on the next possession with a contested 3-pointer from the left side with just 35 seconds remaining.
Down the stretch, the Bucs sent Frankie Johnson to the line for four free throws, and he converted each one, keeping the Bucs from being able to close the gap despite Devontavius Payne hitting a 3-pointer to pull the Bucs to within two points with less than a second to go.
The Citadel ended the game shooting 44.1% (26-of-59) from the field and 36.1% (13-of-36) from 3-point range while ETSU hit on 47.8% (33-of-69) of their attempts from the field, but just eight of their 27 3-point attempts (29.6%).
Free throws proved to be the difference maker in the game as the Bulldogs converted 19 of their 23 attempts at the charity stripe (82.6%) while the Bucs hit on just eight of their 15 attempts (53.3%) from the free throw line.
Najdawi led all scorers with 24 points off 9-of-16 shooting (56.3%), marking the 19th time in his career that Najdawi has eclipsed the 20-point mark and the ninth time this season.
Three other Bulldogs ended the game in double figures, including Williams with 17 points and a game-high four 3-pointers. Harris added 13 points and Johnson had 12 points and was once again close to recording a triple-double as he added seven rebounds and seven assists.
Bo Hodges came off the bench for ETSU to lead the way in scoring with 17 points while Burrell chipped in 15 points. Mladen Armus concluded the double-digit scoring with 14 points.
FAST BREAK FACTS
Tuesday night's win broke a five-game winning streak in the head-to-head series by the Buccaneers. Prior to Tuesday night, the last Citadel win in the series came back on Feb. 26, 2015. The last time the Bulldogs had beaten ETSU in Johnson City was Jan. 24, 2005.
The Bulldogs have now beaten three of the top four teams in the Southern Conference at least once this season, including No. 1 ETSU, No. 3 Furman and No. 4 Wofford.
The Bulldog win broke an 11-game home winning streak for the Bucs. ETSU was also riding a 13-game home winning streak against SoCon opponents with the last home SoCon loss for the Bucs coming last season on Jan. 12, 2017 against UNCG.
The Bucs entered the game first in the SoCon, fifth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll and No. 58 in the RPI.
With the two-point win, the Bulldogs have reached double-digit wins for the third time under head coach Duggar Baucom. It is the first time that The Citadel has had three consecutive seasons with double-digit wins since the stretch from the 2008-09 season to the 2010-11 season, but Baucom becomes the first coach since Pat Dennis (1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96) to hit the 10-win mark in three consecutive seasons.
Baucom becomes just the fifth coach in program history to record double-digit wins in his first three seasons at the helm of the program, joining Benny Blatt (1926-29), Norm Sloan (1956-59), George Hill (1971-74) and Pat Dennis (1992-95) in the feat.
With his 24 points against the Bucs, junior Zane Najdawi has eclipsed the 20-point mark in 19 games in his career and nine games this season. He has led the Bulldogs in scoring in 13 games this season, including four of the last five and eight of the last 10.
Najdawi, who entered the game averaging 15.2 points per game for the year and 20 points per game in conference action, jumped up three spots on the all-time scoring list in program history to 21st with 1,146 career points.
Najdawi had one block Tuesday night, extending his current streak of games with at least one block to nine.
Quayson Williams finished Tuesday's night contest with a game-high four 3-pointers, moving him up into a three-way tie for ninth in program history with 160 career treys.
Tuesday night is the fourth time this season that Williams has converted at least four treys. He has now had 15 games in his career with at least four treys.
With his seven assists Tuesday night, Frankie Johnson has now had at least five assists in 12 games this season, matching the number of games last season that he accomplished the feat. It is the eighth time this year Johnson has had at least seven assists.
Johnson now has 240 career assists, moving him up to 14th in program history for career assists. He also has 119 assists on the year, moving him up into a three-way tie for 13th in program history for assists in a single season.
Tuesday night, Johnson had a game-high three steals, giving him 49 for the season, matching his total from last season. The 49 steals for the year is tied for 11th-most by a Bulldog in a single season. Johnson's 98 career steals are just 10 away from the top-15 for steals in a career.
With his 3-pointer with 2:19 to go in the first half, Matt Frierson has now hit at least one trey in 34 consecutive games.
The Bulldogs return home this Friday, Feb. 23 for the home finale against Mercer. The Bulldogs and Bears will tip off at 6 p.m.