There was something old and something new in The Citadel’s season opener Saturday, and that could mean something promising for Bulldogs basketball.
Senior center Mike Groselle set a school record with his 23rd double-double, and freshman Matt Van Scoyc made an impressive college debut in an 84-76 victory over VMI before 1,180 fans at McAlister Field House.
Groselle racked up 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Van Scyoc added 18 points and seven boards as the Bulldogs advanced to the championship game of the All-Military Classic.
The Citadel will play Air Force at 4 p.m. today for the tournament title, with VMI taking on Army at 2 p.m. for third place. Air Force rallied for a 76-65 win over Army on Saturday.
A 2-0 start and a trophy would be a great start for the Bulldogs, who were 6-24 last year in coach Chuck Driesell’s second season.
“That’s one of the goals we set for our team,” Driesell said. “It would be a great feeling for our guys to know that all the work they’ve put in early on can pay off.”
The 6-8 Groselle’s habit of posting double-doubles is familiar to Citadel fans, but the Bulldogs have sometimes struggled to provide him with help. Assistance came Saturday from Van Scoyc and sophomore guard Marshall Harris, who posted 19 points with nine assists.
“We’ve been working for months for this game,” said Groselle, who broke Regan Truesdale’s school record of 22 double-doubles. “I think the close relationship we’ve developed as a team really helped us pull this one out.”
Groselle is likely to develop a quick relationship with the 6-6 Van Scyoc, a knob from Green Lake, Wisc. At one key point of the second half, a double-teamed Groselle whipped a pass out to Van Scyoc, who hit one of his two 3-pointers. Van Scyoc also showed a willingness to mix it up inside with Groselle as the Bulldogs out-rebounded VMI, 39-33.
“Great game for a first college game,” Driesell said. “He did a great job scoring when we needed him to, but he didn’t rush his offense, and he rebounded the ball well.”
Van Scoyc turned down offers from Central Michigan, Nevada and others to come to The Citadel.
“The first half was a little rough,” he said. “You have to get used to the physicality and speed of the game. But once I got settled in, I felt a lot better.”
VMI has a much younger team than the one that beat The Citadel by 103-100 last year, and led the nation in scoring for five straight years before last season. But the Keydets still like to push the pace and fire up 3-pointers, and they hit 14 of 37 against The Citadel.
Sophomore guard Brian Brown made 7 of 14 from long distance, but a 2-3 zone by The Citadel kept Big South preseason player of the year Stan Okoye in check. The 6-6 senior hit only 5 of 15 shots for 14 points, and VMI shot just 42 percent on 2-point shots.
“VMI wants to play up and down, take quick shots and make the other team play like that, too,” Harris said.
“We knew we’d have a better chance if we just played our own game.”
The Bulldogs pulled ahead by 64-54 on a Groselle left-hander with 8:19 left, and VMI got as close as 72-70 with 3:56 to play. That’s when Van Scoyc caught a pass-out from Groselle and swished a trey. Harris followed with a 3-point play, and a Groselle jumper made it 80-74 with 2:12 left. VMI never got closer than four after that.
Redshirt freshman Dylen Setzekorn and grad-student transfer Stephen Elmore also made their Citadel debuts. Setzekorn hit both his 3-point tries for eight points, and Elmore, a 6-6 forward, scored two points with one rebound in seven minutes.