A motivated Citadel squad forged past Furman in overtime for a 62-56 victory Thursday night at Timmons Arena in Greenville.
The Citadel (10-16, 5-10 SoCon) started the extra session on a 7-0 run over the first 2:19 and outscored the Paladins (7-19, 4-11 SoCon) 14-8 overall notching its second straight road win for the first time since January 2011 and keeping its slim first-round bye hopes alive for next month’s SoCon Tournament.
Despite 19 turnovers, the Bulldogs shot a robust 57 percent from the field and played an exclusive 2-3 zone defense which held the Paladins to 38 percent shooting.
“To come in here against our archrival and play that well was huge,” said Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell, who matched his highest season win total in the process. “Even though the turnovers were the glaring mistake, we controlled tempo, ran good offense and I was really pleased with our zone defense.”
That abundance of turnovers was the only black mark on an otherwise well-rounded Bulldog performance, particularly on the defensive end where the disciplined zone neutralized the front court combo of Kris Acox and Kendrec Ferrara (1 combined point on 0-4 FG) and outrebounded the bulkier Paladins 31-26, while forcing the home squad to attempt an abundance of 3’s (28 of 52 total field goal attempts), converting just 28 percent.
“If we kept them from penetrating and got a hand in their face on the shot, we felt we’d have a good chance,” Driesell said. “The most important part was keeping them off the glass, especially Acox, who leads the league in rebounding, is extremely tough to keep off the boards.”
Ashton Moore scored 16 of his team-high 20 points after halftime — and seven of the Bulldogs’ 14 in overtime — while contributing seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in the 202nd all-time meeting between the schools. P.J. Horgan battled his way to 15 points (6-8 FG) before fouling out in overtime, and Brian White scored 10 points without missing a shot (4-4 FG, 2-2 FT).
The Bulldogs also got a much-needed boost from their bench, as C.J. Bray grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in 28 minutes of action, while Warren Sledge — who did not play the previous two games — contributed a career-best three steals of The Citadel’s season-high 12 as a unit.
“I thought our bench gave us a lot of energy tonight and that’s important on the road,” said Driesell. “Bray played a great game tonight, grabbed rebounds, made some shots, and Warren stabilized the offense and made big plays. They did exactly what we needed.”
After Moore’s driving bank shot settled in for a 48-46 Bulldog lead with 1:15 left in regulation, Furman’s Stephen Croone was fouled by Horgan on a drive to the rim with 55 seconds left, setting off a chain of unfortunate free throw shooting for the Paladins.
Croone, who entered the contest sixth in the league at 77 percent for the year, missed both attempts, but an offensive rebound provided a mulligan which the all-SoCon point guard gladly accepted, rolling home an and-1 layup with 24 seconds left to tie the game 48-48.
But again, Croone’s free throw spun out, allowing The Citadel a chance for its second straight road buzzer beater. However, neither a Moore runner nor a lob to Quinton Marshall at the rim off the ensuing out-of-bounds play did the trick and the game stayed 48-48 at the end of regulation.
In the bonus period, the Bulldogs hit four of their first five shots, including Moore’s triple-fake 3-pointer with 2:41 left, to help establish a 60-51 lead. At one stretch, Furman missed six consecutive free throws and finished just 8-of-16 for the game.
The Citadel shot just 67 percent at the line (16-of-24) itself, the squad’s lowest clip with at least 10 attempts since Dec. 22, but the persistent defense limited the Paladins to only two field goals in the frame as the Bulldogs collected their second overtime win of the year for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Croone scored a game-high 23 points for Furman on 9-of-18 shooting, but hit just 2-of-7 at the line.
The Citadel plays its final road game of the regular season at Wofford on Saturday. Tipoff at Benjamin Johnson Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Citadel led 26-23 at halftime and has now led at the half in four straight games.