WHO: Georgia Southern at The Citadel
WHEN: 7:05 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: McAlister Field House
Matt Van Scyoc and Quinton Marshall stayed up late in their Citadel barracks Monday night. Sure, they were pumped up by the Bulldogs' first win since before Christmas, an 81-71 victory over Samford that night to snap a school-record 17-game losing skid.
But there was an even better reason to stay up late. Rumor had it that The Citadel had made ESPN's Top 10 plays of the day.
"At about 11 p.m., somebody texted us that we were on SportsCenter," Van Scyoc said. "I tried looking it up on my laptop, but I couldn't find the link. So I pulled up SportsCenter and we sat there for the full hour until 1 o'clock so we could watch it."
Finally, there it was, the No. 3 play on the Top 10. Marshall, an athletic 6-5 sophomore, ran the baseline and skied to take a lob pass from freshman point guard Warren Sledge, slamming it home with authority.
The moment fulfilled a childhood dream for Marshall, who has had more than one highlight-worthy dunk this season.
"I got calls and texts all day the next day," Marshall said. "Everywhere I went, every corner I turned, somebody said something to me. It was great."
It's safe to say that the 5-25 Bulldogs, who host Georgia Southern at 7 p.m. Saturday in their final game of the regular season, have had more fun this week than they have in a long time. Winning, even one game, makes a huge difference.
"You are smiling more, you find things funnier," Van Scyoc said. "After a loss, you are always thinking about what you can do better, and it weighs on you. After a loss, I know I can't fall asleep very easily. After a win, you are so happy it's easy to forget about all the things that aren't going well."
The trick for the Bulldogs now is to translate this era of good feeling into a strong finish to a disappointing season. They get Georgia Southern (13-17, 6-9), tied for sixth in the Southern Conference at home today, and play the league's No. 6 seed in the first round of the SoCon Tournament next week. That's likely to be either GSU or UNC Greensboro (13-17, 6-9).
The Citadel will be underdogs in both; on the other hand, neither game is unwinnable. The Bulldogs feel they owe Georgia Southern after a poor performance in an 83-52 loss in Statesboro on Jan. 30.
"Probably our worst game of the season," Van Scyoc said. "Defensively, we didn't have the intensity we usually have, and we didn't shoot very well either."
The Citadel has no seniors to honor on what would normally be Senior Day, so the entire focus will be on starting a winning streak after what was a long losing skid.
"The last few days have been nice," coach Chuck Driesell said. "But our guys know that's over with now. They know they have to take what they can from the win over Samford and focus on a team that beat us pretty bad the last time we played."