Hoops update: Wofford and Furman travel to McAlister

Just some quick thoughts on the upcoming games at McAlister Field House…

The Citadel’s last three losses have been a) by one point at home to UNC-Greensboro, in as brutal a fashion as I’ve seen the Dogs lose in a while; b) a 29-point thrashing at Davidson that featured one of the worst first-half performances in the program’s recent history, which is saying something; and c) a double-OT setback at Georgia Southern in which The Citadel did a lot of things right but lost thanks to a series of first-half turnovers and a lopsided free throw disparity (the latter noted by Chuck Driesell, deservedly so).

The Bulldogs need to catch a break. First, they need to be in a position to take advantage of a break, which they were in Statesboro — it just didn’t work out. Will they be in position to pick up a win against either Wofford or Furman?

Let’s take a look at those always-critical “Four Factors” stats for The Citadel, courtesy of kenpom.com:

Four Factors                    Off  Rank        Def  Rank         D-1 avg.
Effective FG%: 48.0 199 56.7 341 49.0
Turnover %: 21.5 224 17.9 302 20.8
Off. Reb. %: 28.3 285 31.6 126 32.5
FTA/FGA: 30.1 306 30.7 57 36.5

The Bulldogs continue to struggle defensively, with the horrific eFG% more obvious than a $50 hooker outside Mark Clark Hall. Only four teams are worse than The Citadel in that category (for the record, they are Kennesaw State, Longwood, Monmouth, and Northern Arizona; those four teams plus The Citadel have a combined record of 23-79).

The Citadel also does not force enough turnovers on defense. The Bulldogs do a decent job limiting offensive rebounds, and generally don’t give opponents a lot of free throw opportunities (Georgia Southern excepted, I suppose). Conversely, those are two areas in which The Citadel’s offense has not fared as well.

Mike Groselle has been a force on the offensive glass, as his offensive rebounding rate of 13.9% is 64th-best nationally, but the problem is that he has accounted for 40% of The Citadel’s total offensive boards. He needs more help grabbing misses.

The team as a whole needs to get to the line more. The Dogs are not a terrible shooting team, but aren’t nearly good enough to get by without free points from the charity stripe. Of course, that brings up a bigger problem, which is that The Citadel isn’t converting enough of those freebies as it is. The Bulldogs must shoot much, much better than 63% from the foul line if they hope to win a few more games down the stretch.

Wofford is 12-8 overall, and has won three straight SoCon games to move to 5-3 in the league. The Terriers are aiming for a first-round SoCon tourney bye. There are still ten league games to go, but Wofford has a one-game lead over the College of Charleston for second place in the South division, behind runaway league leader Davidson. Second place in the division will be good enough for that much-wanted bye.

The Terriers have already beaten the CofC at home, and also can claim a victory over Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Other than Davidson, Wofford has probably been the league’s most consistent team.

On December 3, Wofford beat The Citadel 82-63 in Spartanburg. The Terriers shot 55% from the field in that game, with Keith Giltner scoring 27 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. The most glaring offensive statistic for the Bulldogs had to be the lack of assists — only four (on 22 made baskets).

Furman is 9-10, 3-5 in SoCon play. The Paladins have hovered around .500 all season, never more than two games over or under the break-even mark.

The Bulldogs’ loss at Furman on January 5 featured a mind-numbing 42-16 run by the Paladins in the second half to end the game, which turned a 35-29 Furman lead into a 77-45 loss for the Bulldogs. Furman took a lot of threes (29) and made more than its fair share of them (13). Bobby Austin came off the bench for the Paladins and made five of his six attempts from beyond the arc. Like the Wofford game, The Citadel was outrebounded by a significant margin.

At halftime of Saturday’s game against the Paladins, Colonel Jake Burrows will have his jersey number (No. 3) recognized with a banner to be hung in the rafters at McAlister Field House. Burrows, now 93 years old, is a 1940 graduate of The Citadel. He had, it is fair so say, quite a career as a cadet. From the Wofford preview at citadelsports.com:

Burrows…is the lone member of the college’s [athletic] Hall of Fame who was both Regimental Commander and First Honor Graduate of his class.  As an athlete in which he competed for three years (freshmen were ineligible), Burrows earned eight total letters as he lettered in football three times, basketball three times and twice in track. He was an all-state pick in basketball three times and twice was named All-Southern Conference and during his three years of basketball, Burrows averaged 11.5 points per game which equated to 31 percent of the team’s total points.  In his three years on the hardwood, The Citadel defeated South Carolina and Furman six straight games each.

After graduating, Burrows began a career in the U.S. Army that included serving on Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s staff during the latter part of World War II. More importantly, Burrows (in his role as Director of Cadet Activities) was the driving force behind the creation of the coveted Silver Shako, for which he probably merits an additional banner in the rafters.

Here is a recap of the Bulldogs’ season-opening 1938 victory over Furman, in which The Citadel defeated the Hurricane (!) 38-17. Burrows, a sophomore that season, led the team with eight points: Link

(Curiously, the basketball media guide records that game as a 37-17 Bulldogs victory, rather than 38-17.)

Burrows was also the leading scorer for The Citadel in its next game, a win over South Carolina. This was not an unusual occurrence. In his junior campaign, 1939, Burrows led The Citadel in scoring in all but one game all season. The Citadel won 65% of its games during Burrows’ career as a hoopster, including the “state championship” in 1939.

I am hoping that Burrows’ success on the hardwood will serve to inspire the current Bulldogs, at least for one night…