The Citadel led at halftime, trailed by two with nine minutes left and was behind by only six with 7:45 to play.
But by the end of Saturday's basketball game at Furman, the Bulldogs were no match for the Paladins, who pulled away for a 101-85 victory at Timmons Arena in Greenville.
Center Matt Rafferty had his way with the Bulldogs, scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as Furman won its 13th straight home game to improve to 14-2 overall and 3-1 in the Southern Conference.
Lew Stallworth scored 23 points, Alex Reed 20 and Kaiden Rice 18 for the Bulldogs, who lost their third straight game to fall to 9-5 overall and 1-2 in the SoCon.
"Our defense was awesome and our energy level was really good in the second half," said Citadel coach Duggar Baucom. "But in the second half, that waned, and that will get you beat."
Furman, which won its first 12 games this season to earn a Top 25 ranking by The Associated Press, got double-figure scoring from five players.
Rafferty, a 6-9 senior, hit 11 of 15 shots and all six of his free throws as The Citadel chose not to double-team him for the most part. Forward Clay Mounce had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and guard Jordan Lyons scored 17 points.
Furman outrebounded The Citadel 53-28, including a 20-3 edge on the offensive glass and a 25-8 margin in second-chance points.
"Rafferty just backs you down, and we didn't offer a whole lot of resistance," Baucom said on his postgame radio show. "You can't help off their shooters, but we did a little in the second half.
"Everybody we play will be bigger than us, so every day we work on boxouts," he said. "In the first half, we did a pretty good job, but in the second half, we did no job whatsoever, so that was disappointing."
The Citadel got guard Connor Kern (illness) and forward Hayden Brown (ankle) back in the rotation but was without forward Kaelon Harris, who was injured Thursday night at Wofford. Kern went 0 for 5 from the floor.
Center Zane Najdawi had 11 points and 10 rebounds but struggled in his matchup with Rafferty. Sharpshooting guard Matt Frierson, increasingly the target of opposing defenses, was held to five shots and scored just three points. Averaging 16.5 points, He was just 2 of 9 for nine points in the losses at Wofford and Furman.
"He's being guarded," Baucom said of Frierson."They lock into him, and they don't help off of him, and that makes it really difficult. When that happens, you have to make the open ones. I promise you, no one hates it more than Matt. We'll get him loose again."
The Citadel led 46-43 at halftime and trailed 72-70 when Najdawi hit a trey with 9:03 left. The Bulldogs were still within 79-73 when Stallworth drove for a bucket with 7:45 to play.
But a 16-2 run by Furman iced the game as Rafferty scored twice and Lyons hit a deep 3-pointer. The lead reached 22 in the final minutes.
The Citadel returns home Thursday to face East Tennessee State.