Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said he was “speechless” after his team’s performance Saturday at Furman, this time for all the right reasons.
Down by 18 points early in the second half, the Bulldogs rallied for an 84-79 victory over the Paladins at Timmons Arena in Greenville.
It was one of the biggest second-half comebacks in Citadel basketball history.
“I’m speechless,” said Driesell, whose club outscored Furman 60-39 in the second half. “That’s one of the most remarkable wins I’ve ever been associated with.”
The Citadel put together consecutive victories for the first time since mid-November and improved to 6-15 overall and 3-8 in the Southern Conference. None of that seemed possible when the Bulldogs trailed by 40-24 at halftime and 42-24 early in the second half.
“We just challenged them,” Driesell said. “And they responded.”
Did they ever. The Citadel shot 74 percent in the second half, and the Bulldogs’ 60 second-half points were their third most in a SoCon game in school history.
Big men P.J. Horgan and Mike Groselle led the way for the second straight game, Horgan scoring a career-best 23 points and Groselle adding 19. But they had plenty of help, as Ashton Moore added 14 points, Matt Van Scyoc 13 and Marshall Harris 11.
Groselle, the 6-8 senior, added seven rebounds and six assists to his line, and SoCon assists leader Harris had seven dishes. Moore hit 4 of 6 from 3-point range, helping his team sink 7 of 13.
And after Van Scoyc fouled out, redshirt freshman Dylen Setzekorn came in to hit a big 3-pointer and a free throw in the final minutes.
A switch to a 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone defense in the second half helped cool the Paladins (6-14, 3-6), who shot 50 percent while running up their first-half lead.
“We weren’t going to win this game letting them shoot 50 percent, so we had to make a change,” Driesell said. “The only thing we could do was go to the zone, and it was good to us tonight. But more than anything, the guys just played harder and were more focused.
“Everybody played great, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “It was a great team win.”
Horgan’s free throws gave the Bulldogs a 72-70 lead with 3:09 left, their first since it was 2-0 in the opening seconds of the game.
The margin reached 81-72 after Setzekorn’s trey and two Harris free throws with 51 seconds left.
But then the Bulldogs missed five of six free throws to allow Furman to get to within 82-79 with five seconds left. Harris finally sank two free throws with two seconds left to ice the win, snapping a five-game skid against Furman.
The Paladins’ Reddick brothers, twins Charlie and Colin, led Furman with 26 and 21 points, respectively.
The Citadel, which escaped last place in the SoCon South Division at least temporarily, is on the road for its next two games, at Chattanooga and at Samford. The Bulldogs return home to play Georgia Southern on Feb. 14.
“Just from a team concept, this is one of the best wins we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Driesell, in his third season. “From where the team was at, to get two wins a row, that’s pretty darn good.”