Hoops update: still searching for a second SoCon victory

Just a few quick thoughts on the losses to Wofford and Furman:

— The Citadel has a lot of issues to address, both offensively and defensively, but one noticeable problem the Bulldogs have had, particularly over the last three games, is a tendency to commit a ridiculous number of first-half turnovers. The Citadel has averaged over 11 turnovers in the first half in those three games. The Bulldogs have taken care of the basketball in the second half in two of those games, but to win consistently (or at all) they must cut down on turnovers throughout the game.

If The Citadel had not committed 12 first-half turnovers against Wofford, the Bulldogs likely would have had a decent lead at the break instead of being tied at 21. Against Furman, ten TOs in the opening stanza led to a deficit that the Bulldogs could never quite overcome.

The Citadel had 12 first-half turnovers against Georgia Southern in a game the Bulldogs lost in double overtime; in the second half and two overtime periods in that contest, The Citadel only committed seven turnovers. Just cutting down on a few of the first-half miscues would have resulted in a victory for the Bulldogs.

You just can’t throw away possessions like that. Against Furman, the Bulldogs shot the ball very well in the first half (53% FG), actually got to the foul line and made a good percentage of their free throws (9-12)…and still trailed by six points at intermission because 29% of The Citadel’s possessions ended in a turnover.

Against Wofford, 37.5% of The Citadel’s first-half possessions ended in a turnover.

Admittedly, none of this is news to the Bulldogs. As Mike Groselle said after the Wofford loss:

We’re really close, and everyone on the team knows it. It’s up to us to be more solid with the ball. That’s going to be the difference in winning and losing these games.

— Groselle is continuing to put together what is by anyone’s definition an outstanding season, despite The Citadel’s struggles. There is no telling how many points he would have scored against Furman if the Paladins had not elected to go to a sagging 2-3 zone midway through the second half; as it was, Groselle finished with 24 points on 10-12 shooting from the floor (along with 11 rebounds).

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were unable to make Furman pay for that defensive strategy, only making three of fifteen three-point shots. Not only was The Citadel unable to hit from outside, the Bulldogs’ guards could not penetrate the zone for easier shots in the paint (or simple feeds to Groselle). Chuck Driesell’s take:

The zone bothered us, and I’m surprised about that. We worked on it, and we knew they played it some. We didn’t knock down shots. The zone keeps the ball out of the big man’s hands, but if you knock down a couple of 3-pointers, they can’t stay in it long.

Of course, it’s easy to say what the Bulldogs need to do against a zone. Executing that plan is another matter. I was reminded that it’s not the simplest of propositions when on Sunday, Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit tweeted that “to beat a zone, you have to move the ball quickly and get the ball into the paint via pass or penetration.” The team that drew Dauster’s ire because of its inability to do that?

That team would be Connecticut — which, last time I checked, won the national title last season.

— I was able to make it to McAlister Field House on Saturday night, and happy to have been in attendance, despite the loss to Furman. The 1600 or so fans at the game were treated to a good game between two teams that played hard, if not always well.

At halftime, The Citadel honored Jake Burrows, whose accomplishments I mentioned in a previous post, by putting jersey number 3 in the rafters. Burrows is the third hoopster so honored by The Citadel; somewhat amusingly, only one numeral has been needed, as the other two honorees (Regan Truesdale and Art Musselman) both wore no. 33. Burrows spoke briefly and movingly to the crowd, better than most people could have, and most people aren’t 93 years old.

It is a shame there weren’t more cadets on hand, although it certainly is understandable, given it was Saturday night. The Southern Conference schedule doesn’t really help The Citadel on that front.

I have a suggestion to the administration that I’ve made before and that I’m going to make again. There are cadets on campus on Saturday nights (besides the hard-working pep band). I’m talking about cadets who are serving tours or confinements. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give those cadets credit for tours/cons by letting them come to McAlister and support the team. I am betting some of them would be ideally suited for the role of cheering the Bulldogs and mocking the opponents.

Actually, I know they would be ideally suited, because the idea is not without precedent.

On a February night in 1990, conduct-restricted cadets (and a few of their “free to roam” colleagues) cheered on The Citadel’s basketball team as it battled an outstanding East Tennessee State squad, one that would win the second of four straight SoCon titles that season. The Bulldogs had played ETSU earlier that season in Johnson City and lost badly, 92-57.

However, with the support of a particularly rowdy section of the corps behind them, the Bulldogs put together what may have been their best performance of that season. Alas, it wasn’t quite enough for a win, as Ted Mosay’s last-second shot was blocked, enabling the Buccaneers to escape with an 87-86 victory. Still, it was a great game and a lot of fun.

The night at McAlister wasn’t over, though. In a decidedly unusual development, a wrestling match between The Citadel and UT-Chattanooga had been scheduled to follow the basketball game. The hoops game had tipped just after 6 pm, so by the time the first wrestling match started it was around 9 pm. UTC, the conference favorite, would eventually win, but things were tougher than expected for the Mocs, in no small part due to a vocal contingent cheering on The Citadel.

It was a great experience for the Bulldog wrestlers, and probably for the Moc grapplers as well. My lasting memory of that evening, though, was the one voice in the stands that stood out the most. Leading the crowd in cheers, needling the referee at every given opportunity, supporting the cadets on the mat throughout every match…was the assistant commandant of cadets, the one and only LTC Harvey M. Dick.

Harvey Dick died Saturday morning; there was a moment of silence before the game, and flags on campus were lowered to half-staff. It is a loss that has hit the greater community of The Citadel hard, understandably so. Few people loved The Citadel and cared more for its students than Harvey Dick. Stories about him are numerous, mostly true, and could be told for days on end. For me, I’ll always remember that night at McAlister. Condolences to his family.