CHARLESTON, SC - The Citadel (7-7, 0-1) dropped its Southern Conference opener 84-78 to preseason league favorite Chattanooga (12-2, 1-0) on Saturday at McAlister Field House. Five Bulldogs scored in double figures led by 16 points and five rebounds from Derrick Henry and 15 points from freshman Zane Najdawi.
The Citadel forced 17 Chattanooga turnovers and made 13 three-pointers in the loss. Head coach Duggar Baucom's team led 72-66 at the last media timeout, but a crucial 10-0 run put together by the Mocs helped Chattanooga hold off The Citadel in the final minutes.
A pair of freshmen sparked the Bulldogs' strong first half as Najdawi and Matt Frierson made big plays on both ends of the floor. With The Citadel trailing 13-7 at the 13:32 mark, Najdawi took over. He followed an offensive rebound and putback with a big block on the defensive end. A possession later, Najdawi buried the first of two consecutive three-pointers to surge the Bulldogs in front 14-13.
The rest of the first half was a back-and-forth battle as Saturday's contest finished with 18 lead changes. When Chattanooga pushed ahead 27-19, Frierson came through, nailing a huge trey to stop the bleeding. The Citadel finished the first half on a 20-11 spurt. Frierson scored in double figures for the second time this season, adding 12 points on four three-pointers off the bench.
The Bulldogs managed to build a six-point lead twice in the second half, but the Mocs responded each time. For The Citadel, Henry's ability to drive and get to the free throw line put his team in a position to win late. He shot 8-of-9 from the charity stripe and made 5-of-6 in the final five minutes.
Chattanooga managed to regain a slim advantage by capitalizing on turnovers and converting in transition. Frierson rattled home his fourth trey of the game with 1:05 remaining to slice the Mocs' lead to 80-78, but Chattanooga prevented a Bulldog comeback with clutch free throws.
Following the home conference opener, The Citadel now travels to Samford on Jan. 5 for its 10th game away from McAlister this season. The Bulldogs then host three home games in eight days against Mercer, Wofford and Furman.