Two weeks ago, Citadel basketball coach Duggar Baucom was in his McAlister Field House office on a Sunday afternoon, rearranging the furniture after new carpet was installed.
He heard a basketball bouncing in the gym and went to investigate.
It was senior guard Matt Frierson, at 2 p.m. on a day off, putting up shot after shot in an empty gym.
"I told my wife, 'Come here, I want to show you something,'" Baucom said. "I said, 'Right there is the price of greatness that nobody ever sees. That's why he's one of the best in the country, because he puts in the time.'
"Just the loneliness in the gym, nobody there but him."
That's how Frierson has earned his reputation as one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation. The 6-2, 160-pounder from Laurel, Md., ranks second in Division I, averaging 4½ 3-pointers per game. He's third in total 3-pointers made with 63, and he's the top 3-point shooter in the Southern Conference among players with at least 100 attempts, shooting 43.8 percent.
No wonder he's also No. 1 on opposing team's scouting reports.
Over the last two games, in losses at Wofford and at Furman, opposing guards have lived inside Frierson's jersey, holding him to just nine shots and nine points. He entered the week averaging 17.5 points.
With The Citadel (9-5, 1-2) hosting East Tennessee State (13-4, 3-1) on Thursday night, it wouldn't shock Frierson if he woke up to find a Buc guard sleeping in the next bunk in his barracks room.
"They are just doing everything they can to take him away," Baucom said. "They don't help off on anybody else; they are basically face-guarding him. But that's what happens when you are one of the best in the nation; you become a target."
At Wofford, it was Fletcher Magee, who recently passed Stephen Curry as the SoCon's all-time 3-point shooter, who shadowed Frierson around the court and held him to 1-of-4 shooting.
"Magee guarded him mostly at Wofford," Baucom said. "And I think he was on a mission because Matt had stolen some of his thunder this season."
At Furman, the job fell to Paladins guard Jordan Lyons, who limited Frierson to three points on 1 of 5 from the floor.
"It was one of Jordan's best defensive games of the year," Furman coach Bob Richey said. "I thought he took the challenge. We asked Jordan to do it, and we asked him with full confidence. I think he took a lot of pride in it."
Now, it's up to Frierson and the Bulldogs to adjust and find ways to get their top shooter open. It won't be easy against ETSU, the top defensive squad in the SoCon.
"I've just got to continue playing with confidence," said Frierson, who recently became the 34th player in Citadel history with 1,000 career points. "I've been working on a lot of stuff; creating more separation off screens, being more physical off of screens so that I don't get pushed around."
Frierson, who played high school ball for his dad, grew up shooting on a goal in the backyard of his house in Laurel, losing to his older brothers most of the time. "You could only shoot from 3-point distance from straight on; there wasn't enough room anywhere else," he said.
At The Citadel, Baucom jokes that Frierson has worn out the team's rebounding machines. The coach had to order two more Shoot-A-Way guns for this season.
"Shooting is just something I love doing," said Frierson, who plans to give pro ball a shot after graduation. "I've loved it my whole life. It takes stress away from life, like running does for some people. I get in there and get in my own world while I'm shooting. And I love the success that comes with it; when you hit a 3-pointer in a game, you feel like the hard work has paid off."
And with teams making Frierson a marked man, there's more hard work to come.
• The Citadel's "Pack the Mac" game is set for 1 p.m. Jan. 26 against VMI and will feature the entire S.C. Corps of Cadets in attendance. The Palmetto Battery will present the nation's colors before tipoff. The game will feature $5 tickets for fans who use the promo code "PTM" at CitadelSports.com/tickets. The special promotion will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 25.
East Tennessee State at The Citadel
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: McAlister Field House
Radio: 92.1-FM, 102.1-FM, 1450-AM
Records: ETSU 13-4, 3-1 SoCon; The Citadel 9-5, 1-2 SoCon
Notable: After a 9-2 start (1-0 in the SoCon), The Citadel has dropped three straight, including league games at Wofford and at Furman … The Bulldogs have allowed 107.7 points per game and 56 percent shooting over the last three games, including 46 percent from 3-point range … Over the first 11 games of the season, those numbers were 81.8 ppg, 40.9 percent shooting and 30.6 percent from 3-point range … G Matt Frierson has been held to 2 of 9 shooting and nine points over the last two games, after averaging 17.5 points for the first 12 games … ETSU has won five straight games, including wins over Wyoming and SoCon foes Furman, Samford and Chattanooga.