As Citadel players stood for the alma mater following a 68-57 win over Furman on Thursday night, guard Marshall Harris reached up to rub 6-8 center Mike Groselle on the head.
The small gesture revealed just how much Groselle, a senior center and one of the most productive basketball players in school history, means to his teammates.
“It meant everything,” sophomore P.J. Horgan said of sending Groselle out as a winner in his final home game, before 2,046 fans at McAlister Field House.
“We were playing not just to beat Furman. We wanted Mike to go out as a winner, and that was a huge inspiration for us.”
Groselle, of course, played no small role in the victory, also the last home game for grad-student transfer Stephen Elmore. Groselle extended his school record with his 27th career double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and also threw in six steals.
“It meant a lot to me, the fact that the guys were so supportive of me,” said Groselle, who is now eighth in scoring and second in rebounding in Citadel history.
“They kept saying, ‘We’re going to get this one for you, we owe you one.’ That really meant a lot to me.”
The Citadel’s victory also means the Bulldogs (8-20, 5-12 Southern Conference) will avoid the 12th seed for next week’s SoCon tournament in Asheville, N.C. If The Citadel can win at Wofford on Saturday in the regular season finale, it will tie for fourth in the South Division, and head to the tournament with three straight SoCon wins for the first time since 1960-61.
“Our guys were tough tonight,” said coach Chuck Driesell, who got 11 points each from Dylen Setzekorn and Horgan. “I like the way they handled themselves. They stayed composed when Furman made a run at us. It was nice to get a win for our seniors, but it was more than that. We’re just trying to put together 40 minutes of good basketball.”
The Citadel had 21 assists on 27 baskets, with SoCon assists leader Marshall Harris registering nine and freshman Rae Robinson eight.
Setzekorn made 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
Furman (6-22, 3-14) put up a fight despite dressing only seven healthy players. Three starters played 40 minutes each and the other two went for 39 each as the Paladins lost their ninth straight game.
Freshman Larry Wideman scored 17 points for Furman, and the Paladins sliced a 13-point deficit to two at 48-46 with 8:51.
Much as he did in last week’s 80-77 overtime win at Appalachian State, Groselle came up big in the crunch. He scored eight points during an 18-8 run, finishing it off with an emphatic dunk for a 68-55 lead with 66 seconds left.
“I just wanted to make the most of tonight,” Groselle said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do during my career here, and I think I did that tonight. It was a great win for all of us.”