WHERE: U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.
RADIO: WQNT 1450-AM
One thing is certain as The Citadel plays in the Southern Conference basketball tournament Friday in Asheville:
At least the Bulldogs are peaking at the right time.
The Citadel's current two-game win streak is arguably the only peak in what's been a barren Death Valley of a season, which included a school-record 17-game losing streak on the way to a 6-25 record and last-place finish in the SoCon.
But believe it or not, only one SoCon team enters the tournament with a longer win streak than the 11th-seeded Bulldogs' heading into Friday's 4 p.m. first-round game against No. 6 UNC Greensboro. And that team is top-seeded Davidson, the heavy tournament favorite with a 15-1 league mark and 12 straight victories.
"We are feeling really good right now," said junior guard Ashton Moore, who led the Bulldogs to wins over Samford and Georgia Southern in their final regular-season games. "Everyone is playing with the confidence that they know they should have since the beginning. Now that things are starting to come together, we've got to keep our heads up and take the tournament one game at a time. We'd rather peak now than earlier in the season."
The Bulldogs played their best basketball of the season in Saturday's 80-63 win over Georgia Southern, shooting 54.4 percent with 26 assists on 31 baskets.
Point guard Marshall Harris set a school record with 12 assists, and Matt Van Scyoc led four players in double figures with 19 points.
The Citadel has reason to feel confident about facing UNC Greensboro (14-17, 7-9) as well. In a Jan. 16 game at Greensboro Coliseum, the Bulldogs led by 14 points early in the second half and by eight with 9:56 left before losing by 69-65 in overtime.
That was one of two overtime losses The Citadel suffered in its first four SoCon games.
"We had the lead for the majority of that game," said Moore, who scored 21 points against UNCG. "We had some setbacks toward the end, and now we have to make our adjustments and be ready for them."
The Bulldogs made just 9 of 18 free throws in that game, and were dominated inside by the Spartans duo of junior Kyle Cain (6-7, 210) and sophomore Kayel Locke (6-5, 240). Cain had 20 points and 16 rebounds and Locke went for 21 points and eight boards.
"They are very talented down inside, so we'll have to have great post defense," said coach Chuck Driesell. "They've got depth inside and they've got skill, and their guards are smart and know where to get the ball."
The Bulldogs are better equipped in the post than they were the first time against UNCG. That was just the fourth game back for the Bulldogs' 6-8 junior, P.J. Horgan, as he returned from a back injury. He played only eight minutes in that game, but is rounding into form and had 10 points and nine rebounds against GSU. He's averaged 7.6 rebounds over the last four games.
UNCG, in its second season under coach Wes Miller, has won two of its last three games, including wins over No. 2 seed Chattanooga and No. 3 Wofford. Tevon Saddler, a 6-4 guard, was named SoCon freshman of the year after averaging 12.4 points.
"We're so young with seven freshmen and two sophomores, so we've been very inconsistent and we've reflected that type of immaturity and inexperience," Miller said. "There's been great moments when I thought we could play with just about anybody, and some really low moments where we could lose to just about anybody."
Driesell's son, Luke, is a junior on the Wando High School team that will play for the Class AAAA state title tonight in Columbia against Hillcrest. Dad will have to miss the game.
"I'm really proud of him," Chuck Driesell said. "He's gotten further than I did in high school in the playoffs; we got to the final four and lost. It's a neat team and he loves being a part of it. I think they have a good chance to win it all."
Friday's game against UNCG at the U.S. Cellular Center will be on the radio at 1450-AM in Charleston, and can be viewed on ESPN3.
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