Bench helps Bulldogs outlast Tigers
SAVANNAH -- For the first time in almost a year, Citadel guard Cameron Wells failed to score in double digits.
Add in a season-low four points from backcourt mate Zach Urbanus, and Saturday's basketball game at Savannah State could easily have ended in disaster. Instead, the Bulldogs re-discovered some alternate means of scoring, and held on for a 54-47 victory over SSU before 350 fans at Tiger Arena.
Austin Dahn came off the bench to score 12 points, while freshman Harrison DuPont scored 11 points in his first start. Forward Bryan Streeter also scored 11 off the bench as the Bulldogs snapped a three-game skid and moved to 7-7 heading into the heart of their Southern Conference schedule.
"We have plenty of guys who can step up when Cam and Zach don't have those big nights," said DuPont, a 6-5 forward who has scored 25 points in the last two games. "We'd love for them to have a big game every night, but it's good to see some other guys contribute, too."
Wells, averaging 17.8 points per game, had scored in double digits in 17 straight games, dating back to an eight-point performance against Furman on Feb. 26, 2009. Against SSU, he scored six points with six rebounds, three assists, three steals and four turnovers.
With Urbanus (five assists) hitting just 2 of 5 shots, the Bulldogs got only 10 points from the backcourt that had been supplying almost 30 per game.
"We've worked on trying to get some other guys the ball in places where they can be productive," coach Ed Conroy said. "It was very unselfish of Zach and Cam, and we got that done tonight. Now, we just have to find that balance of them having their normal production along with that.
"I liked how we were sharing, I liked how we were looking inside. Zach and Cameron, they got their assists even if they didn't score like they normally do. But they will, and I think that's something we can count on."
With former standout John Brown, a Savannah native and the sparkplug forward on last year's 20-win team, sitting in the stands, the Bulldogs turned in some stretches that were reminiscent of that team, the first in Citadel history to earn a postseason bid.
A 17-5 run to close the first half gave the Bulldogs a 26-18 halftime lead, and a 17-6 run in the second half helped boost the lead to 45-31. With Conroy emphasizing getting the ball inside, The Citadel had 28 points in the paint and had 15 assists on 20 baskets.
"That was my message to the guys after the game," he said. "I thought for the most part, other than the first few minutes of the game, that we had a long stretch of good solid basketball, the way we want to play.
"Some of the things we worked on over the break, of where we want to get the ball and going inside with some different guys, I thought it looked really good. But then we let the end get away a little bit."
Sloppy play late let the 5-10 Tigers, led by 17 points from guard Tracy Rankins, cut a 14-point gap to seven and then five in the final minutes. Dahn nailed a big 3-pointer, Streeter hit two free throws and Wells finally sealed it with two more foul shots with five seconds left.
At 1-1 in the SoCon, the Bulldogs now face 16 straight league games, starting Wednesday at Appalachian State, with new contributors emerging. In addition to DuPont, junior forward Dan Eykyn turned in a hustling seven minutes in just his eighth appearance of the season, with four points and a rebound. Dahn, who started the first nine games, is getting more comfortable coming off the bench, and has hit 11 of his last 23 from 3-point range after starting the season at 5 of 31. Streeter, a 6-6 junior, scored in double figures for the first time this season.
"Zach and Cam have been carrying the load," Dahn said. "It was good to see some other guys step up, including myself. That was nice to see."