The Citadel charged fans only $1 for tickets to Saturday’s basketball game against Radford. In retrospect, there may have been better bargains to be had this holiday weekend.
The Bulldogs never gave themselves a chance in this one, their worst half of the season costing them a 74-61 loss to the Highlanders before a crowd of 1,031 at McAlister Field House.
The Citadel (3-2) fell behind by 22 en route to a 42-24 deficit at halftime, committing 15 of their season-worst 24 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Radford (4-3) climbed all over the offensive glass, grabbing 15 of their 18 offensive rebounds in the first half.
The performance left Citadel coach Chuck Driesell looking for answers.
“Happy Thanksgiving, huh?” said Driesell, whose team was led by 12 points from reserve guard Ashton Moore. “Did not see that coming. We had a great week of practice and worked hard against pressure, executed against pressure, because we knew they were going to pressure us. We just didn’t get the job done.”
Radford won despite subpar games from its top scorers, Javtone Green and R.J. Price, who combined to go 4 for 20 from the field. And the Highlanders, led by 13 points from freshman guard Ya Ya Anderson, shot just 41.3 percent, 26.1 percent on 3-pointers.
But Radford racked up such big advantages in points off turnovers (30-11) and second-chance points (13-0) that the Bulldogs could not recover.
Playing the final game of a five-game homestand to open the season, the Bulldogs seemed off from the start. On their first possession, senior Mike Groselle passed up an open layup and tried to pass the ball out, resulting in the first turnover.
“Our decision-making was not there, and that’s what causes most turnovers,” Driesell said. “Radford exposed us in that area, and we’ve got to find a way to play better against that type of pressure.”
The Citadel struggled to get the ball to Groselle, and he in turn struggled against Radford’s athletic frontcourt of 6-8 Kion Brown and 6-7 Brandon Holcomb. Groselle, shooting 70.3 percent coming in, hit just 4 of 10 shots for 10 points and nine rebounds, Marshall Harris and Matt Van Scyoc scored 10 points each for the Bulldogs, who were outrebounded 18-7 on the offensive glass.
“Just a bad day at the office,” said Moore, who added four assists to his 12 points. “We came out with no intensity. We didn’t have that fight or will to win. They pressured us into some turnovers, but it’s nothing we can’t fix.”
Despite the bad first half, the Bulldogs climbed back to within 49-43 with 8:13 to go, as Dylen Setzekorn scored all eight of his points during a 19-7 run.
But Radford’s Kyle Noreen scored off a loose ball, and Price converted a turnover into a fast-break bucket to jack the lead back to 10. The Bulldogs never got closer than eight after that.
The Bulldogs will play their next six games on the road, starting with their Southern Conference opener Dec. 1 at UNC Greensboro. The road trip also includes games at Charleston Southern (Dec. 4), Georgia Tech (Dec. 22) and Clemson (Jan. 1).
“Defense and rebounding,” Driesell said when asked what the Bulldogs need to take with them on the road. “And for us, obviously, we’ve got to fix the turnovers. We’ll focus on that, concentrate on that. If I have to play five on seven in practice, I’ll do that until our guys have the confidence to play strong with the ball.”
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