Citadel players made the quiet six-hour bus ride back from Cullowhee, N.C., a week ago, having lost their school-record 17th straight game in a desultory 18-point defeat at Western Carolina.
As the Bulldogs' basketball team gathered in the locker room near midnight that Saturday, junior guard Ashton Moore spoke up.
"He sat us down, and he might have said some words we can't repeat," Bulldogs sophomore Matt Van Scyoc said. "But he hit us in the head, and we kind of realized, enough with the talking. Let's just do it."
Moore's locker-room speech looks like a tipping point of sorts after The Citadel won its second straight game Saturday night, an 80-63 blitzing of Georgia Southern before 1,168 fans at McAlister Field House.
Having ended that skid with an 81-71 win over Samford last Monday, the Bulldogs (6-25, 2-14) will carry a two-game win streak and some confidence into the Southern Conference tournament next week in Asheville, N.C.
The 11th-seeded Bulldogs face No. 6 UNC Greensboro (14-17, 7-9) next Friday. The Citadel lost, 69-65, in overtime at UNCG on Jan. 16, one of two OT losses during the 17-game skid.
"It feels great," said Van Scyoc, who scored a team-high 19 points against Georgia Southern (13-18, 6-10). "We're going up there with two straight wins, and we're playing a team we stuck with. UNCG is definitely a team we want again. That game left a bad, bad taste in our mouths, because we had them."
The Citadel demonstrated against GSU that it is capable of exacting a measure of revenge. The Eagles, in their first season under former College of Charleston assistant Mark Byington, had toasted the Bulldogs by 81-52 in Statesboro on Jan. 30.
This time, the Bulldogs picked apart GSU's defense with 26 assists on 31 buckets, paced by a double-double of 11 points and 12 assists from point guard Marshall Harris. It was only the second points/assists double-double in The Citadel's modern era; Cameron Wells had 24 points and 10 assists against Elon in 2010-11.
Moore scored 16 points with five assists and P.J. Horgan had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs, to counter a career-high 29 points by GSU senior Tre Bussey.
"We are just trying to play confident," Harris said. "Ashton, he's a great leader and he told us we're all good enough to win if we just play with confidence. We're real confident right now."
It was 55-55 inside of 10 minutes left when the Bulldogs began their decisive 19-4 run, getting 10 points from Van Scyoc during that stretch.
"We knew The Citadel was playing better basketball lately," Byington said. "I don't know if that message got through to our players good enough. We knew it'd be different than the first time, and that shows maybe a lack of maturity on our team. But tonight was about how well The Citadel played. They deserve the credit."
Now, the Bulldogs will see if they can take this level of play to Asheville. In the second round, they'd get Wofford, another team they took to overtime this season.
"I'm proud of these guys," Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said. "They are playing well, and they've showed a lot of character playing well in the last week when we've had a tough season. We're a young team, with no seniors out there, so it takes some time to get to that point."
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