The Citadel added a couple of new faces to its lineup Saturday night. The season debuts of Rae Robinson and P.J. Horgan weren’t enough to help the Bulldogs snap their losing skid, but they both showed enough promise to offer hope of better things to come.
A 72-55 loss to Western Carolina, before 1,247 at McAlister Field House, extended the Bulldogs’ losing skid to eight straight games, six of them on the road. The Citadel (3-9, 0-2 Southern Conference) plays the second of four straight home games against Chattanooga on Thursday.
By then, basketball coach Chuck Driesell will have had a few more practices in which to integrate Robinson, a freshman guard from Goose Creek High School, and 6-8 sophomore Horgan into his plans.
“If anybody watched this game, they can see that they are both game ready,” Driesell said. “We’re fortunate to be able to turn to them.”
Robinson missed the first 11 games after breaking a bone in his foot during preseason practice. Horgan was slated to redshirt this season, but has been forced into action by the loss of sophomore forward C.J. Bray (ankles).
In his first action since last season, Horgan almost racked up a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Robinson, who had practiced only twice, hit both his treys for six points in 18 minutes.
“It felt pretty good,” said Robinson. “I missed 11 games, and I was thinking I might redshirt this year. But it feels good to be back out there.”
Horgan, who appeared in 17 games last year and started two, hit 4 of 5 shots for his 10 points, matching guard Marshall Harris to lead the Bulldogs.
“Any way I can help the team, that’s what I want to do,” Horgan said. “Getting rebounds, getting garbage buckets, I’m going to do whatever is best for the team.”
The Bulldogs’ top scorer, senior center Mike Groselle, was limited to a season-low eight points and two rebounds on 4 of 5 shooting, and the Bulldogs’ turnover problems continued with 16 giveaways leading to 16 points for Western Carolina (5-9, 3-0).
“Our guards missed Mike a few times when he was open,” Driesell said. “They were fronting down there, and in our high-low offense we should have been able to get him the ball. But he didn’t get many rebounds, either, and that’s on him.”
WCU’s 18-10 edge on the offensive boards led to 17 second-chance points. Guard Trey Sumler scored 17 points and former Charleston Southern player Tom Tankelewicz hit four 3-pointers for 14 points. But Preston Ross, a 6-4, 220-pound junior, was the toughest matchup for the Bulldogs with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“They killed us on the glass,” Driesell said. “You trim down the offensive rebounds, trim down the turnovers, and we’ve got a chance to win. We haven’t had a chance to win some of our recent games, but we had a chance to win tonight.”
The Citadel cut an 11-point halftime deficit to six at 49-43 on a Harris 3-pointer with 6:33 left. But WCU got a break when Tankelewicz barely drew iron on a 3-pointer, the ball going out of bounds to the Catamounts. Tankelewicz buried his second chance from the left corner, then hit another from the same spot for a 55-45 lead. Western Carolina eventually pushed the lead to 19 in the final minutes.