Ashton Moore knocked down a 3-pointer to pull The Citadel to within four points of Southern Conference leader Davidson, then shook his head as if in disbelief as his fellow cadets roared.
This was how Citadel basketball should be more often. Citadel cadets, called out by a local columnist last week, turned out at McAlister Field House by the hundreds Monday night, their biggest showing by far in a long, losing season.
And they made a difference, the Bulldogs rallying not once but twice against the SoCon's best team. The Citadel cut a 17-point deficit to two, then rallied again from 17 down to within five in the final seconds.
Davidson, led by 21 points from De'Mon Brooks, held on for an 83-76 victory before 1,582 fans, extending the Bulldogs' losing streak to 16 straight games despite a career-best 35 points from Moore.
The skid matches the longest single-season losing streak in Citadel history, set by the 1952-53 team.
"We're not so much worried about the losing streak," said Moore, whose 35 points were the most by a Bulldog since 1995. "The way we are playing, we know we'll eventually get a win. That's all we're thinking about."
Monday night's effort might have been good enough to beat a few SoCon teams. But not Davidson (16-11, 12-1), which won its ninth straight behind 11-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.
Guards Brian Sullivan and Tom Droney each scored 15 for the Wildcats, who have made at least 10 3-pointers in four straight games and six of the last eight. Tyler Kalinoski and Jack Gibbs scored 13 each to give Davidson five players in double figures.
Moore, who hit 11 of 19 from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point range, did not have the same kind of support. One reason was an elbow to the head that Matt Van Scyoc took midway through the first half. A stunned Van Scyoc, the Bulldogs' top scorer, left the game and did not return until the second half, playing only 17 minutes with two points.
"I think that hurt a lot, and that's kind of been the story of our season," Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said. "We had a great performance from Ashton, but he can't do it by himself. If we could get two or three guys to step up and play really well in a game . but that hasn't really happened for us all season long. We didn't need Matt to play great tonight, just average, but he didn't get a chance to do that."
Driesell noted the cadet turnout, giving the Bulldogs their second-largest home crowd of the season.
"A huge difference," Driesell said. "I thank those guys for coming out. Anyone could see we had a little hop in our step and a little pump, and I hope they will come out for the remaining two home games."
"I've always been told the homecourt should be worth 10 points, and I thought we had eight or nine tonight. It was awesome."
The crowd could not prevent the Bulldogs from falling behind big early - 22-5 after nine minutes - as they've done so often this season. They climbed back to within 34-28 at the half and to within 46-44 with 12:33 left when Moore followed his head-shaking trey with two free throws.
Davidson responded quickly with a 3-pointer from Gibbs and two from Kalinoski to stretch the lead back to 17. But the Bulldogs got it back down to single digits in the final minute. Davidson closed it out with 7 of 8 free throws in the final 33 seconds.
"They have a lot of grit and toughness about them, having gone through so much adversity," Driesell said of his players. "I don't think they have any quit in them. They knew they'd have to play well tonight to have a chance to win this game, and they did."
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