Building double-digit leads in Southern Conference games has not been working for The Citadel basketball team, so the Bulldogs tried something different Saturday night against Furman.
Turns out, falling behind by double digits doesn’t work much better.
Playing at home against the only other winless team in SoCon play, the Bulldogs fell behind by 10 points seven minutes in, by 14 at halftime and by 18 in the second half.
A desperate rally cut Furman’s lead to three in the final minutes, but The Citadel never caught up and lost its eighth straight game, 76-71, before 1,433 fans at McAlister Field House.
The loss left the Bulldogs at 4-16 overall, 0-5 in the SoCon and bitterly disappointed.
“In the beginning, we just didn’t have the intensity on defense,” said sophomore Matt Van Scyoc, who scored 17 points to support Ashton Moore’s 25 for The Citadel. “You could see that just looking at us. We let them punch us in the mouth and we didn’t respond.”
Furman’s 6-8 sophomore, Kendrec Ferrara, did most of the punching, notching his first double-double with a career-high 27 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Charlie Reddick, who had made five 3-pointers all season, hit 4 of 5 treys to add 16 points for the Paladins (7-12, 1-5).
Ferrara, averaging 10.1 points coming in, proved to be the same kind of inside matchup problem for the Bulldogs as Chattanooga’s Z. Mason, UNC Greensboro’s Kyle Cain, Elon’s Lucas Troutman and Wofford’s Lee Skinner. Post players have averaged 24.8 points and 12.2 rebounds against The Citadel in SoCon play thus far.
“Guy played like an All-American,” Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said of Ferrara. “I give him credit. He made some tough shots, some that aren’t easy to make and got some big rebounds. We’ve got to look at the tape and challenge our guys to either defend better or play like him offensively.”
The Bulldogs, who had double-digit second-half leads in losses to Chattanooga, Wofford and UNCG, trailed by 39-25 at the break in this one. The deficit reached 18 on a Ferrara jumper for 58-40 with 11:53 left, as Ferrara and Reddick scored 17 of the Paladins’ first 19 points in the second half.
The Citadel outscored the Paladins by 31-18 from that point forward, but it was not enough.
“We talked it out at halftime in the locker room, and we made it a point to punch them first,” Van Scoyc said. “You can’t get beat by 20 on your home court. We came out with some intensity and we played great in the second half.”
But the Bulldogs, who made just 10 of 17 from the foul line, missed a couple of front ends in the final four minutes, and gave up some key offensive rebounds to Ferrara. He rebounded a missed free throw and hit a foul shot of his own for a 70-65 lead with 1:05 left.
A tip-in by Brian White with 13 seconds gave The Citadel one last chance at 72-69, but Furman’s Stephen Croone made two free throws to ice it at 74-69 with 12 seconds left.
Furman shot 60 percent and hit 7 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half, falling off to 37.5 percent and 3 of 9 in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought out defense was much better in the second half,” Driesell said. “A lot of their lead in the first half was due to our inability to make shots we had been making. We had a lot of shots around the rim that we didn’t make in the first half. We made them in the second half, and you saw the difference.”
The Citadel is at home Thursday against Appalachian State (5-13, 1-4), which claimed its first Division I win Saturday with an 81-68 win over SoCon foe Georgia Southern.