After an 11-day layoff for exams, The Citadel basketball team got a passing grade for its return to the court.
But just barely.
Bulldogs coach Chuck Driesell was not handing out easy A's after The Citadel's 79-68 win over Division II Brevard before 901 fans at McAlister Field House.
"I didn't think we played well," said Driesell, whose 4-8 team snapped a four-game losing skid. "I'm proud of the guys for getting the win. That's important, we need that to build some confidence. But we didn't play well as we had prepared for these guys."
Guard Marshall Harris scored 22 points and forward Matt Van Scyoc added 21, and freshman Brian White posted his third double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
But against a much smaller team from Brevard (2-7), the Bulldogs shot just 25 percent from 3-point range and gave up 19 points off of 13 turnovers. They won the game at the foul line, making 31 of 33 free throws, the most makes for The Citadel in one game since 2000.
The performance puzzled Driesell, who said the team practiced well over the exam break.
"We had three or four of the best practices of the year," he said. "Guys who had not been playing well were playing well in practice, but it didn't carry over. Could have been the layoff, but I don't know.
"We didn't play loose, and Brevard did play loose. They had nothing to lose, it seemed like, and we played tentative, a little tight, and not like we'd been practicing."
Three players - Dominique Pickett, Darius Moose and Trevon Shaw - scored 16 points each and Miles Leathers added 15 for Brevard, coached by former Samford assistant Lee Burgess.
Brevard cut a nine-point deficit to 52-49 with 10 minutes left before The Citadel responded with a 10-2 run capped by Van Scoyc's 3-pointer. But the Tornados still were within six at 66-60 with 1:29 left. The Bulldogs hit 13 of 14 free throws down the stretch to hold on to the lead.
"You could tell there were a few times in the game we couldn't answer what they were doing to us, and it took a little while to get the motor going," said Van Scoyc, who became the third-fastest Bulldog to 500 career points since 1973, behind only Cameron Wells and Rodney McKeever. "It didn't feel like a great win, because we should have done it a lot better."
Brevard is the last of four non-Division I teams on the Bulldogs' schedule, and it gets real now. The next four games are at Nebraska; at home to College of Charleston; at Radford; and the Southern Conference opener against Chattanooga.
Driesell wants to see his team play against those teams with the looseness Brevard displayed Wednesday.
"We've played like that at times, in a couple of early home games, in some of our scrimmages," he said. "We've shown signs of it; it just needs to be more consistent. I'm not beating these guys up. I'm staying positive with them and I believe in these guys, and I believe that's the best way to reach them."