When Mike Groselle finally got the ball to go in the basket, Citadel coach Chuck Driesell yelled “Timeout!” and looked up hopefully at the scoreboard.
Alas, there were only sixth-tenths of a second left, and the Bulldogs were done. A 69-65 loss to Samford sent The Citadel to its 10th straight loss before 1,038 fans at McAlister Field House.
The Citadel fell to 3-11 overall and 0-4 in the Southern Conference, with one more chance to snap its skid during the current homestand — against rival College of Charleston on Monday.
“We’re in striking range,” said Driesell, whose team has lost its last two games by a total of nine points after losing eight straight by an average of 28. “But it still feels really bad. I’ve got a lot of guys who are upset that we are not winning. But I think they see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are starting to believe that they can win these games, and that’s important.”
Samford (5-12, 3-1) completed its conquest of Charleston — it beat College of Charleston, 62-57, on Thursday — with 22 points from freshman Clide Geffrard Jr. and 15 each from sophomore guard Raijon Kelly and freshman center Tim Williams.
Samford also made life hard for Groselle, a 6-8 senior and The Citadel’s top scorer. Samford often fronted Groselle with Geffrard Jr., a bouncy 6-5 wing player, and had the 6-8 Williams lurking on the backside.
Groselle was held to one shot in the first half and finished with eight points and 11 rebounds on 3 of 10 shooting, his third single-digit scoring performance in the last five games.
“We’re seeing that quite a bit from other teams,” Driesell said. “Teams are leaving our perimeter players open to help on the weak side. But our guys knocked down some 3s tonight, and that’s what we need to do consistently if teams are going to do that.”
The Citadel hit 11 of 25 3-point shots, including 4 of 9 from freshman Matt Van Scyoc, who led the team with 19 points. But it wasn’t enough to overcome 16 turnovers, many of them on attempts to get the ball to Groselle in the post.
“Most of the problem is we’re just not calm enough with the ball,” said Van Scyoc, “A couple of times I forced it in there, trying to get it past some people. We’ve got to make sure we can get the ball down low to Mike where he wants it.”
Van Scyoc scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, but went 0 of 6 from the floor in the second half after Samford coach Bennie Seltzer assigned 6-4 junior Will Cook to shadow him. Citadel guard Marshall Harris had 12 points, seven assists and four steals, and P.J. Horgan scored 11 points off the bench.
Down 65-63, The Citadel got the ball and a timeout with 67 seconds left, but had to settle for a Van Scyoc trey that bounced off the back iron. Samford made four free throws before Groselle’s futile final basket.
Before this road trip, Samford had not won a game in the Lowcountry since a 1979 win at Charleston Southern (then Baptist College). It had never beaten College of Charleston, nor won at McAlister Field House.
“I can’t say enough about how proud of my guys I am,” said first-year coach Seltzer, a former Indiana assistant. “Our young guys are starting to understand what we want as a staff. We’re still a work in progress.”
At 3-1, Samford is tied for second place in the SoCon North Division behind Western Carolina (4-0).