Bulldogs' streak snapped
The Citadel's winning streak had to end sometime — unless, of course, the Bulldogs were going to win right through next week's Southern Conference Tournament and then march to the most unlikely national championship in history.
But a 62-55 loss to Wofford (the last team to beat The Citadel) on Senior Night, before a rabid crowd of 4,485 fans at McAlister Field House, with a 20-win season and a first-round tournament bye on the line, was a painful way for the Bulldogs to end their 11-game streak.
"It's a tough loss," said Demetrius Nelson, who along with Jonathan Brick played his final home basketball game. "Both teams came out for war, we both battled and we wanted to get this one extremely badly. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done."
The Bulldogs (19-11, 14-5 in the
SoCon) will have to get it done Monday night at Georgia Southern if they are to claim a first-round bye in the SoCon Tournament. The Citadel now trails College of Charleston (15-5) by a half-game for second place in the South Division, but clinches the bye with a win at GSU (8-20, 5-14) due to its season sweep of the Cougars.
"When you get into March, it's always a one-and-done type of feeling," coach Ed Conroy said. "We'll grow from this game. It had a March-type feel to it, and now we enter March for real. We can play for something on Monday night, and I think our guys will respond to the challenge."
Wofford (15-13, 11-8) is locked in as the No. 4 seed from the South Division, and has been the Bulldogs' nemesis this season, the only SoCon team other than Chattanooga that The Citadel has not beaten. The Terriers took a 66-63 win over The Citadel on Jan. 17, just before the Bulldogs kicked off their 11-game win streak, their longest since 1927.
Wofford scored the final seven points of this game to pull away from a 55-55 tie with 1:34 left, freshman guard Brad Loesing hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 30 seconds left.
Forward Noah Dahlman hit 7 of 9 shots for 17 points to lead Wofford, and Corey Godzinski added 12 as the Terriers hit five 3-pointers in the second half after going 1 of 5 in the first 20 minutes.
The Terriers made work difficult for the Bulldogs' top two scorers, Nelson and guard Cameron Wells. Nelson, double-teamed constantly, was limited to two shots and two points in the first half and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Wells was 2 of 7 in the first half before coming on late to finish with 13 points on 13 shots.
"We match up pretty well with this Citadel team, unlike some other teams in the league," said Wofford coach Mike Young. "We think we have a pretty good idea how best to guard them, and our kids were very, very good tonight. And they had to be, or the Bulldogs would have pinned our ears back for a 12th straight."
Tied 25-25 at the half, Wofford built a 51-46 lead with 6:23 left on a Godzinski 3-pointer. Wells scored six of the Bulldogs' next eight and tied it at 55-55 with a baseline bucket with 94 seconds left. The crowd roared when The Citadel got the ball back as Dahlman fell after grabbing a rebound and was whistled for traveling, but Nelson short-armed a shot in the lane and missed.
At the other end, the Bulldogs doubled Dahlman when he got the ball in the post, and he whipped a pass to an open Loesing in the left corner. The freshman, who had missed his last nine 3-point tries, didn't hesitate and buried the shot for a 58-55 lead.
Austin Dahn, who was 1 of 6 on 3-pointers, missed a trey at the other end and Wofford hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal it.
The Bulldogs were 0 of 6 on 3-pointers in the second half and finished just 3 of 15.
The North Division seeds are set for the SoCon Tournament — No. 1 Chattanooga and No. 2 Western Carolina get byes, followed by No. 3 Samford, No. 4 App State, No. 5 Elon and No. 6 UNC Greensboro ... In the South, No. 1 Davidson and No. 4 Wofford are the only teams locked into their seeds ... The 1978-79 team, the only 20-win team in Citadel history (so far), was honored at halftime, with coaches Les Robinson, Richard Johnson and Greg Blatt, trainer Andy Clawson and players Mark Cartwright, Ed Cornwell, Chris Davis, Dale French, Wade Moore, Randy Nesbit and Tom Slawson on hand.