The pre-Christmas start to the Southern Conference basketball schedule typically finds teams still searching for an identity.
It was just last season that Wofford lost its two December SoCon games before storming to a 15-3 conference record and the league championship.
"It's an interesting time of year," said Citadel coach Chuck Driesell, whose Bulldogs (1-4) begin SoCon play today against Georgia Southern (2-5) and Saturday against Davidson, with both games at McAlister Field House. "Teams have played such different types of schedules, it's hard to get a read on where everybody is."
The read on Driesell's Bulldogs, however, is right there in the numbers.
The Citadel has been a first-half monster -- holding halftime leads in four of five games -- and a second-half mouse.
In the first 20 minutes of their five games, the Bulldogs are allowing foes an average of 29.6 points on 42.3-percent shooting. After halftime, those numbers blow up to 41.6 points on 58 percent shooting from the field.
Charleston Southern, James Madison and Coastal Carolina all used second-half surges to deal losses to the Bulldogs. Even in a 71-63 victory over High Point, the Panthers shot much better in the second half (44.4 percent) than the first (29.6).
"We have to stop letting people score too easily against us," Driesell said. "We can't allow that to happen. But even with that happening, we've been in these games. We just have to find a way to win on the defensive end."
Driesell doesn't foresee a drastic change in strategy. An emphasis on fundamentals and a better use of bench players should help in the late stages of games, he said.
"You might go to a zone once in a while to protect the paint," he said. "But in man-to-man defense, you have to stop your man. We have to take pride in that. If you need help, a teammate provides it and then gets back to his man. We just have to work at it.
"It's what kind of condition you are in mentally and physically and how hard you can play. In the first half, we are right up there in the league in field-goal percentage defense. We need to maintain that mentality in the second half, but we are breaking down."
In a 72-64 loss at Coastal Carolina on Saturday, guards Cameron Wells and Zach Urbanus each played 39 minutes, Austin Dahn 37 and Bryan Streeter 31. The most minutes off the bench were 13 each from center Morakinyo Williams and forward Dan Eykyn.
"We've got to look at the guys who are playing a lot of minutes and how they are doing at the end of games," Driesell said. "We need to find guys who can provide not just minutes, but quality minutes, and they are all working hard to be that guy."
Post defense is another concern. Coastal's 6-7 Chad Gray torched the Bulldogs for 27 points on 13-of-15 shooting, and James Madison's 6-10 NBA prospect, Denzel Bowles, hit 10 of 12 shots for 20 points in a 74-67 win.
Georgia Southern's post threat is 6-8 senior Rory Spencer, who is averaging 16 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 46.7 percent from the field in the absence of All-SoCon guard Willie Powers, who injured his knee in preseason and is out for the year.
"That hasn't stopped them from playing hard," Driesell said of the Eagles. "They are very talented and as athletic as any team we'll play this year."