After The Citadel defeated Wofford two weeks ago at McAlister Field House, the following question stuck in the collective mind of Bulldog nation: How will this team handle the signature victory of the Chuck Driesell era?
The unfortunate answer has fallen hard on suddenly slumped shoulders: three straight double-figure losses heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. matchup with Chattanooga at McKenzie Arena. The Mocs have a 7-2 mark in league play and easily disposed of the Bulldogs, 67-48, on Dec. 11 at McAlister Field House.
Although The Citadel appears to be marching towards a hornets nest, the Bulldogs can find confidence in the fact that they’ve been here before, literally and figuratively.
For it was a chilly February night in the Scenic City nearly three years ago that a freshman-laden squad showed just what they were capable of doing.
During the 2011-12 campaign, Driesell’s roster included seven first-year players and just one senior,
“It was a rough season for all of us,” said then-freshman CJ Bray, who started 18 games during his debut season. “Trying to stay positive and be leaders so soon in our college careers was the biggest struggle for us.”
Going into that Chattanooga road game on Feb. 18, 2012, the team had lost two days earlier at Western Carolina, 70-53, in a game in which the Catamounts had more offensive rebounds (28) than The Citadel grabbed total rebounds (27). It was the Bulldogs’ 11th straight defeat and 13th in a row away from home.
On game day at Chattanooga, the team’s usual shootaround turned into a full-fledged practice, as the Bulldogs revamped their strategy on both ends of the floor.
“We were trying to figure out how to play good basketball and win,” Driesell said. “In order to build confidence with such a young group, we had to really get after it and not just walk through that morning.”
The Bulldogs carried that intensity into the game. While the Bulldog defense got necessary stops, the offense slowed things down, showing patience and looking for quality shots.
“We made it a half-court game,” Driesell said. “We ran great offense as guys made good decisions late in the shot clock, and defensively we really grinded them out.”
With 1:58 remaining in the game, freshman point guard Marshall Harris, who earlier in the year made last-second shots at High Point and Georgia Southern to send those games to overtime, knocked down a 3-point shot to give The Citadel a 46-44 lead. The Bulldogs would hold on for a 48-46 victory.
“I do remember that shot,” said Harris. “It was late in the shot clock and it just so happened that I had the ball in my hands and it turned out well.”
Saturday night, The Citadel is back in McKenzie Arena looking for another signature road win.