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The Citadel storms back from 15 down to upset UNC Greensboro

Rudy Fitzgibbons

The Citadel's Rudy Fitzgibbons drives against UNC Greensboro on Jan. 13 at McAlister Field House. Provided/Citadel Athletics

The Citadel's Southern Conference home opener was delayed by two weeks, but it was worth the wait.

The Bulldogs exploded for 56 points in the second half against the SoCon's top defensive team, and roared back from 15 points down for a 74-69 victory over UNC Greensboro at McAlister Field House on Jan. 13.

Hayden Brown bounced back from a rare poor outing with 24 points and 15 rebounds, and point guard Tyle Moffe scored 18 points.

And it was Jason Roche who ignited the final spark with three straight 3-pointers down the stretch as the 7-7 Bulldogs won for the first time since Dec. 16 to improve to 1-2 in the SoCon. Their original league opener against Mercer on Dec. 29 was postponed due to COVID issues at Mercer. 

Coach Duggar Baucom said his reserve players challenged the starters when The Citadel trailed by 33-18 at the half after shooting 26.9 percent and making 1 of 14 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.

"We had some guys step up from the scout team, the guys who don't play much, and challenge their teammates," Baucom said. "They said, 'Look, you guys beat up on us every day and talk junk about it, and you're getting punked down. It's time to go out there and do something about it.'"

The Bulldogs started the second half with a 7-0 run to get back into it, and then Roche got hot to give them lead.

The 6-5 freshman made three straight 3-pointers starting at the 6:36 mark, the second one good for a 54-51 lead at with 5:55 left; that was The Citadel's first lead since 2-0. 

The third trey, from way deep on a pass from Moffe, made it 57-53. And then Brown, Moffe and Brown again followed with 3-pointers of their own for a 66-59 margin with 2:35 left; the Spartans could get only as close as three after that.

Brown, who had only four points and no field goals in an 85-67 loss at Chattanooga on Jan. 8, bounced back with his 20th career double-double.

"Hayden was an absolute warrior in the second half," Baucom said. "I challenged him, and dang if he didn't come out in the second half and was an absolute monster."

De'Monte Buckingham scored 14 points to lead the Spartans (10-6, 2-2), who had been holding teams to a SoCon-best 62.5 points per game. UNCG shot 40 percent from the field and 9 of 22 on 3-pointers.

"We were perfectly pleased to hold that team to 33 points in the first half," Baucom said. "But it was unlike us to score 18 in the first half. I told them we could go out and hang 50 on them in the second half, that it was doable. And that's hard to say when you are 1 of 14 from three.

"We just really persevered and stuck our nose in there and gang-rebounded. And everybody who took the floor contributed."

The Citadel continues a stretch of four games in seven days at home against VMI on Jan. 15, then has a make-up game with Mercer on Jan. 17 at McAlister Field House.

Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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