The Citadel's largest crowd of the season, including a couple hundred sign-waving cadets, turned out to watch the Bulldogs' basketball team Thursday night at McAlister Field House.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs could not give the fans a glimpse of the form that got The Citadel off to a 9-2 start this season.
ETSU broke open a fairly close game with a dominant run to start the second half, cruising to a 98-73 victory before 1,253 fans and handing The Citadel its fourth straight loss.
Daivien Williamson led five Bucs players in double figures with 24 points as ETSU improved to 14-4 overall and 4-1 in the Southern Conference. The Citadel is 9-6 and 1-3 in the league with Western Carolina coming to McAlister on Saturday.
Lew Stallworth scored 18 points and Kaiden Rice 17 for the Bulldogs, but senior Matt Frierson had his streak of 52 straight games with at least one 3-pointer snapped, going 0 of 5 from deep.
"They are probably the biggest team we've played this year," Stallworth said after ETSU blocked seven shots and out-scored the Bulldogs by 46-24 in the paint. "Their bigs are really good and mobile and can crash the boards and block shots. They definitely have the size of a Power 5 team and that kind of mold and look to them."
The Bucs' 6-7 junior, Jeromy Rodriguez, had 10 points and 14 rebounds as ETSU out-rebounded the Bulldogs by 50-31. Seven-footer Lucas N'Guessan and 6-10 sophomore Mladen Armus made it hard for the Bulldogs to finish inside; The Citadel made just 12 of 39 shots (30.7 percent) inside the 3-point arc.
"I thought our size and physicality bothered them at the rim," said ETSU coach Steve Forbes, whose team has won six straight. "And then we were able to contest at the 3-point line and get a hand in their face."
The Citadel trailed by 12 in the first half before Derek Webster's follow shot beat the buzzer to cut the halftime deficit to 38-31.
But ETSU opened the second half with a 22-3 run, while the Bulldogs went 1 of 10 from the floor with four turnovers, for a 60-31 lead. The margin reached 32 in the final minutes.
"As poorly as we shot in the first half, we're only down by seven," Baucom said. "What was most disappointing was the first four minutes of the second half, and that's been the deal in our last three games."
• The SoCon's best teams — Wofford, Furman and ETSU — won their games by an average of 28.6 points on Thursday, all games on the road. The Terriers blasted defending champ UNC Greensboro by 72-43.
"I tell you what, Wofford, Furman and ETSU, and Greensboro they they are healthy, could finish in the middle of a Power 5 league," Baucom said. "That's just how good the league is this year."
• The Citadel's 6-6 sophomore, Hayden Brown, scored just one bucket against ETSU, but it was spectacular. Brown piggy-backed on 6-7 senior Zane Najdawi to rise high above the rim for a put-back jam in the first half.
• Citadel senior Matt Frierson again faced blanket coverage and could get off only five shots, going 0 of 5 from 3-point range. He's just 2 of 14 for nine points in the last three games after averaging 17.5 points in the first 12.
"You've got to lock on him," Forbes said. "And you've got to understand he's only made a couple of 2-point shots all season, so he's not going to hurt you there. You've got to be up the floor, blow up handoffs and when you can do those things, you've got a chance. He missed a couple he might normally make, but for the most part we did a really good job chasing him."
The Citadel is 0-3 against arguably the top three teams in the SoCon, making Saturday's game against Western Carolina almost a must-win contest. WCU is 4-14 and 1-4 after an 84-80 loss at Mercer on Thursday.
"We've played three of the top four teams and two of them on the road," Baucom said. "I still believe in this bunch, and once we start making shots again and staying with the process, we'll be fine."