There was no calming Duggar Baucom down.
Not even his mother, Nancy – “She's 78 going on 40,” Baucom likes to say – could soothe The Citadel's basketball coach after an embarrassing loss at his old school, VMI, on Jan. 20.
“She said, 'They are just kids,” Baucom said. “But I was mad, and I stayed mad all the way home.”
The Bulldogs are pointing to the aftermath of that game at VMI as the turning point in a season that's suddenly a lot more fun.
On Pat Conroy Day at McAlister Field House, The Citadel capped a remarkable week by playing a game of which the famed author and former Bulldog would have been proud.
Trailing rival Furman by 17 points with nine minutes to play and by 10 with under two left, The Citadel rallied for a 110-92 victory in overtime Saturday.
The Bulldogs have won three of four since bottoming out at VMI, including wins over SoCon contenders Wofford and Furman and a two-point loss to league-leader ETSU.
“It's a totally different team,” said Furman coach Bob Richey, whose squad blasted the Bulldogs by 40 points last month. “They are playing totally different.”
Junior Zane Najdawi hit 9 of 12 shots for 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (9-14, 4-7), and junior Matt Frierson added 21 points. Sophomore Kaelon Harris scored eight straight Citadel points in the final 1:42 to spark the comeback, and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
“I'm speechless,” said Harris, who hurled the ball high in the air after The Citadel opened the OT with seven straight points, out-scoring Furman 12-4 in the extra period. “It's unbelievable. Everybody in the conference has been laughing at us because we've been losing. It's payback now.”
Baucom made sure the Bulldogs understood their place in the SoCon after the 88-81 loss at VMI, The Citadel's seventh loss in eight games.
“You can't write most of what I said, but we challenged them,” Baucom said. “I said, 'If you want to be losers, stay this course. I think we're better than that.'”
Furman (16-8, 7-4) played well for most of Saturday's game, getting 18 points each from Devin Sibley and John Davis and leading by 75-58 with 9:13 left and by 82-72 with 2:15 to go. But once it got to OT, the Paladins were spent, going 2 of 10 from the floor and 0 of 6 from 3-point range.
“At our place, The Citadel played more zone defense, zone pressure back to a a zone,” Furman's Richey said. “They were trying to out-score you. This team now is taking more pride in their defense, and they are guarding people now.
“They change up their defenses, try to keep people on their heels,” he said. “They've shrunk their rotation down, and are playing harder with a lot more belief. Najdawi is as good as any post in the league, and we couldn't do anything with him. Frierson's shooting the ball, Harris is shooting it, Frankie (Johnson) is driving it.
"Look, they are good. If you ask any of the four coaches they've played in the last four games, they'd agree.”
Harris sparked the late rally, scoring eight straight for The Citadel, including a trey to make it 84-80. Najdawi and Frierson added 3-pointers for 88-86 before Furman's Sibley missed two free throws with 30 seconds left.
Johnson took advantage, driving the lane for a tying layup with five seconds left. Freshman Alex Reed knocked away a Furman pass to force OT.
In the extra period, The Citadel scored the first seven points, starting with a Johnson drive, and Furman never got closer than five.
“A lot of people didn't believe in us,” Najdawi said. “But we believed in ourselves. Furman beat us by 40 at their place, but we came back here and fought. We're relentless, we never give up and we always believe.”
Pat Conroy, whose jersey No. 22 now hangs high in the old Fieldhouse, would have approved.
• The Citadel hung Conroy's No. 22 banner at halftime, and announced that a basketball scholarship will be named for him. Conroy played at The Citadel from 1964-67 and wrote about the experience in his best-seller "My Losing Season." He died in March 2016.