Time to start a new streak

Well, it wasn’t going to last forever, but it would have been nice for the winning streak to have lasted for at least one more game…

What was the difference between Saturday’s game and the previous eleven?

It was really a lot of little things.  Some of them were aberrations (like Demetrius Nelson struggling from the foul line), but some were not, and what is important is that the Bulldogs must learn from the loss and make the necessary adjustments, because other teams will study tape of this game and try to emulate Wofford.

Of course, emulating Wofford first means having a player capable of a good Noah Dahlman imitation, and that won’t be easy.  Dahlman showed why he is a serious candidate for first team All-Southern Conference with an excellent night, rarely forcing anything but taking advantage of any and every opportunity.  Dahlman scored 17 points on only 9 field goal attempts (exactly the same numbers he had against the Bulldogs in Spartanburg) and also contributed 7 rebounds to the Terriers’ cause.

Wofford’s strategy on defense was to double-team Nelson whenever possible, which they did more successfully than most SoCon outfits (the College of Charleston could learn a thing or two about how they did it), and they did this in part by leaving John Brown open on the wing throughout the game, knowing he wasn’t an offensive threat.  Brown had a frustrating evening.  For one of the few times since he burst onto the scene at the beginning of January, he seemed a half-step behind or a split second late to a number of loose balls and rebound opportunities.  His trademark frenetic style never seemed to have an impact on the game.

Ed Conroy tried a couple of different things to counter the way Wofford was playing defensively (including playing Daniel Eykyn for Brown for a brief period during the second half), but the Bulldogs never really got into an offensive rhythm.  The Citadel did not get many open looks from outside, and as a consequence went 3-15 (20%) from three-point land.

Dahlman’s going to get his points, but at least he didn’t burn The Citadel for 36, like he did Thursday night at the CofC.  The shot to break the 55-all tie was a tough one converted by a player (Brad Loesing) who came into the game shooting only 29.7% from beyond the arc (and who had missed his previous nine three-point attempts).  He made the shot, though, and you just have to give him credit for it.  The Bulldogs did force thirteen turnovers, but on the whole Wofford had an efficient night on offense.  The Bulldogs were also outrebounded by the Terriers (28-22).

Now the Bulldogs have to regroup and focus on their immediate goal, which will be to regain the momentum gathered during the eleven-game winning streak and clinch a first-round bye for the Southern Conference tournament.  The action moves to Statesboro, Georgia, where on Monday night The Citadel tangles for a second time this season with Georgia Southern.

A win in that game would be the Bulldogs’ 15th of the season in SoCon play (and 20th overall, of course) and would tie the College of Charleston for second place in the South Division, with The Citadel holding the tiebreaker by virtue of its sweep of the Cougars.  A loss would mean the Bulldogs would have to play in the opening round against UNC-Greensboro, the sixth-place team from the North Division.  The difference between having to win three or four games in order to claim the tournament title is huge.

Injuries and suspensions have left Georgia Southern ripe for the picking for most Southern Conference teams, and as a result the Eagles have lost ten of their last eleven games, with the only win a non-conference victory over Jacksonville State.  Georgia Southern’s last conference win came against Furman on January 24.

Georgia Southern is the league’s worst defensive team, and against Davidson on Saturday the Eagles allowed 99 points on only 81 possessions, as the Wildcats shot 55% from the floor.  Davidson raced to a 16-0 lead in the game, and in that stretch GSU only attempted two shots while committing seven turnovers.  The Eagles committed 25 turnovers during the game, while Stephen Curry was scoring 34 points (on only 19 FG attempts).

The Bulldogs won’t have Curry, but they should have enough to defeat a depleted and possibly demoralized Georgia Southern team.  In the first game between the two teams, The Citadel won at McAlister Field House 84-75 as Demetrius Nelson and Bryan Streeter combined for 38 points and 12 rebounds, with John Brown adding 11 boards.

Willie Powers and Julian Allen teamed up for 34 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists for Georgia Southern in that game, which is noteworthy because neither will play for the Eagles on Monday.  Powers was lost for the season after that game with a knee injury, while Allen was suspended at the beginning of February (along with Trumaine Pearson and Antoine Johnson, both of whom also played against The Citadel).  The Eagles are down to seven scholarship players.

Incidentally, The Citadel has not swept the Eagles in the regular season since 1998.  The Bulldogs’ last victory in Hanner Fieldhouse came in 2003.

The loss to Wofford on Saturday won’t by itself cost The Citadel a chance at achieving any of the season-long goals it would have had before the game.  However, the Bulldogs have now taken their mulligan.  The Citadel has to win on Monday night, and must do so on the road, with all the pressure associated with trying to produce a successful finish for what has been to this point a remarkable regular season.

In a way, things are now simplified for the Bulldogs.  If The Citadel is to live the big dream, a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time, it has to start a new winning streak, and that streak must be four games in duration.  The Bulldogs can either win on Monday and then win three games in the SoCon tourney, or they will have to win four times in four days in the SoCon tourney.  The first option is by far the more manageable of the two.  Let’s hope the new streak starts on Monday night.

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