With last night’s overtime victory over Appalachian State, The Citadel has now won eight consecutive games. It’s been a while since the Bulldogs won eight in a row. 82 years, to be precise.
1927 was the year, Calvin Coolidge was the president, and Babe Ruth was on his way to hitting 60 home runs in a season (there was no drug testing back then, so obviously there’s no way to know if his 60 were “legitimate” or not). The coach of The Citadel was the immortal Benny Blatt, in his first season in charge. Blatt coached the team for four seasons and finished with an outstanding record of 51-22, but that first year was his best. The Citadel was 17-2 that season, winning 13 games in a row at one point during the campaign and closing in style by winning the postseason tournament of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (still the only postseason tournament ever won by The Citadel). The star player for the Bulldogs was Johnny Douglas, who would eventually succeed Blatt as head coach.
You may be wondering about the teams the Bulldogs played (and beat) that year. Well, the victims in the 13-game winning streak were (in order) as follows: Newberry, College of Charleston, Presbyterian, Oglethorpe, Mercer, Mercer again, Mercer yet again, Davidson, Davidson again, Wofford, Newberry, Presbyterian, and Wofford.
I guess it’s safe to say they scheduled games a little differently back then. One thing that is interesting is that in the three-game set with Mercer, the Bulldogs started off dominant, winning the first game with the Bears 50-14, and then as each game was played the teams got closer in terms of competitiveness — in other words, either Mercer started getting better or The Citadel got worse. The Citadel won the second game by only 14 points, 46-32, and the third game was a five-point contest (38-33). The two teams would meet for a fourth time that season in the SIAA final, a game the Bulldogs won 42-41.
The SIAA tourney was held in Atlanta that season, which brings up another point about the scheduling in 1927. The Citadel played 19 games, but did not play a single game outside of Georgia or the Carolinas. To me, it’s a little strange that the Bulldogs only played the College of Charleston once that season (The Citadel also played the Parris Island Marines). Blatt presumably would have been interested in picking up another win without having to travel, but I guess he really did like to play those games against Mercer.
Back to the 21st century…Appalachian State shot 51% from the field on Thursday night, including 9-18 from three, and made 6 of its 7 free throw attempts. It’s not easy to lose a game when you shoot that well, especially when you jump out to a 15-2 lead, but the Mountaineers also committed 17 turnovers (to just 10 for The Citadel) and committed seven more personal fouls than did the Bulldogs. This led to The Citadel getting 24 free throw attempts, although the Bulldogs almost blew the game by missing nine of them, including five in a row late in regulation when they could have put the game away.
Other than the free throws, The Citadel also shot the ball fairly well (Zach Urbanus and Austin Dahn combined to go 7-14 from three-land), despite getting very little inside from Demetrius Nelson. That can’t happen against the College of Charleston on Saturday, as Cameron Wells isn’t likely to go for 30 points again. I’m also worried about late-game situations involving John Brown now, as he has joined Bryan Streeter in the “really really struggling shooting FTs” club.
Nelson had been coming off SoCon player-of-the-week honors for his 51 points and 18 boards in the two road victories over Western Carolina and Appy, so he was due to have a tough night. Here’s hoping he can have a game on Saturday more like those games, or the one he had in McAlister earlier this year against the CofC (17 points, 6 rebounds).
As for the Cougars, they’re on a serious high after beating Davidson and disposing of WCU last Wednesday.
(Yes, I had to go for the cheap joke. Why not?)
The Citadel will again be a decided underdog when it takes on the College, despite that earlier win. It’s understandable. One thing I hope happens in this game is that the Bulldogs slow the pace down a little. The last few games have seen a gradual uptick in possessions per game, which is fine (after all, they’re winning), but against the CofC I think deliberate play works best, as the Cougars can be frustrated (see: Elon) by slow play. It’s also very important to avoid turnovers that lead to transition baskets, something The Citadel did very well in the first game between the two teams.
It’s a shame this game isn’t going to be televised. It is supposed to be a sellout, though, which would make it one of the few times I can remember in which The Citadel was involved in a conference game that sold out.
Final note: if The Citadel were to win on Saturday, it would be the 12th conference victory of the season, which would set a school record. Of course, it’s easier to set a record like that in a 20-game league schedule, but it would still be extremely impressive (and 12-4 would be nothing to sneeze at). I’ve mentioned this before, but twelve conference wins this season would equal the total number of league victories The Citadel had between 1946-1956, an eleven-year stretch during which the school lost 102 games in conference play.
Filed under: Basketball, The Citadel | Tagged: Appalachian State, Austin Dahn, Benny Blatt, Bryan Streeter, Cameron Wells, College of Charleston, Davidson, Demetrius Nelson, Elon, John Brown, Johnny Douglas, McAlister Field House, Mercer, Newberry, Oglethorpe, Parris Island Marines, Presbyterian, SIAA, Southern Conference, The Citadel, Western Carolina, Wofford, Zach Urbanus |