Unable to snap its losing streak during a three-game homestand, The Citadel basketball team will have to hit the road in search of its first Southern Conference victory - and its first win of 2014.
The Bulldogs' homestand ended with a 78-60 loss to Western Carolina on Saturday night before 1,372 fans at McAlister Field House. Despite a third career double-double from Matt Van Scyoc (25 points, 10 rebounds), The Citadel (4-18, 0-7 SoCon) lost its 10th straight game. The Bulldogs have not won since a 79-68 victory over Division II Brevard on Dec. 18.
The Citadel's next three games are at Georgia Southern, Davidson and Appalachian State. The Bulldogs are 0-10 on the road this season and haven't won a road game since Feb. 20, 2013, at App State.
"We've got to coach up optimism," said fourth-year coach Chuck Driesell, whose teams have endured double-digit losing streaks each of the last three seasons. "Sometimes you've got to coach up defense, offense, shooting, rebounding. We've got to coach up optimism and talk about the journey.
"It's not a one-game race, it's a long marathon. We've got to take just as much from this loss as if it were a win and try to get better tomorrow."
That might be difficult in the face of futility that's reaching into the record book. The Bulldogs' 0-7 start in the SoCon is the worst since the 2007-08 team started 0-14 in Ed Conroy's second season as coach. That team went 1-19 in SoCon play, then won 20 games the next season.
Western Carolina (12-10, 5-2), a senior-laden team picked to finish third in preseason polls, needed only a workmanlike effort for Saturday's win. All-SoCon guard Trey Sumler scored just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting, but dished eight assists as nine Catamounts scored at least five points each.
Senior Tom Tankelewicz, who began his career at Charleston Southern, came off the bench to score 15 points, and reserve forward Justin Browning scored a career-best 10 points with seven rebounds.
"The Citadel could have had two, three, four wins by now," said WCU coach Larry Hunter, whose team snapped a two-game skid. "We had a lot of respect for them. Van Scyoc is having a very strong year, as is Ashton Moore. Coming off two losses, this was a huge game for us."
Moore and Brian White each scored 11 for the Bulldogs, who shot 32.6 percent from the field. Van Scyoc hit 12 of 13 free throws to boost his percentage to a SoCon-best 88 percent.
But WCU crushed the Bulldogs on the boards, 43-27, with a 15-5 edge on the offensive glass and a 38-17 edge on points in the paint. Western Carolina took 66 shots, 20 more than the Bulldogs. The Citadel's 15 field goals were a season low.
"There's just some things we are having a hard time defending," Driesell said. "That's a bigger post player inside, and we've got to find a way to get some help down there and keeping the ball out of the paint."
The Citadel bench scored only 10 points, but that was 10 more than Bulldogs reserves managed in an 80-67 loss to App State on Thursday. The Bulldogs' bench has been outscored, 76-10, in the last two games - 46-10 against WCU and 30-0 against App State.
"That's a pretty good team we played tonight," Driesell said of WCU. "They've got four seniors, two of them redshirt seniors. They've had a lot of experience together, and they played that way tonight."
For the third straight game, the Bulldogs gave up a buzzer-beater at the half, this one a trey by Tankelewicz for a 38-24 WCU lead. The Bulldogs never got closer than 11 in the second half.
. After sitting out the App State game with a sore foot and snapping a streak of 61 straight starts, junior guard Marshall Harris returned to the lineup. He played 22 minutes with four assists, but did not try a shot.
. Reserve guard Raemond Robinson scored seven points, his first points since Dec. 21. He was 2 of 4, hit a 3-pointer and played 21 minutes.
. The Citadel honored the 1964 SoCon championship golf team by hanging a banner in McAlister Field House.