Citadel sinks Navy, 67-60

Jake Wright is a "gaudy Knob" but he sure can shoot!

Jake Wright is a “gaudy Knob” but he sure can shoot!

By Danny Reed Special to The Post and Courier
Dec 6 2014 6:00 pm

Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell has preached team basketball on both ends of the floor throughout his tenure. His veteran squad responded when it had to – and so did the rest of the Corps of Cadets – in a highly competitive 67-60 victory over Navy on Saturday at McAlister Field House.

A 7-0 Navy (2-7) run late in the second half gave the Midshipmen their largest lead at 50-46, when Driesell called a key timeout with 5:54 remaining. The Dogs (4-4) promptly went on a 9-2 run over the next three minutes to seize a 55-52 lead they would not relinquish in improving to 4-0 at home for the first time since the 2004-05 season. The Cadets also have notched six straight home wins overall for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

“We knew that we needed to score, so we talked about our offense getting a good possession and keeping them off the boards,” said Driesell, whose team avenged a 79-74 loss in Annapolis a year ago. “That’s when we got things rolling.” Ashton Moore’s only three of the game with 4:56 left cut the deficit to one at 52-51, and Marshall Harris immediately followed with a steal off Navy’s Tillman Dunbar and converted a driving layup for the 53-52 Bulldog edge. PJ Horgan’s layup with 3:40 to play upped the cushion to 55-52, and the defense took it from there, holding Navy without a field goal for more than four minutes.

With 1:52 to play, Harris violently collided with Navy’s Shawn Anderson in the backcourt and left the game with a left leg injury, handing the keys to the car to sophomore Warren Sledge, who piloted the offense to victory with a career-best seven assists. The Citadel hit six-of-eight at the free-throw line in the final 59 seconds to seal the deal much to the pleasure of 1,626 in attendance and the Corps, who rushed The Citadel bench after the final buzzer.

Freshman Jake Wright poured in a career-high 21 points – 15 after halftime – on 6-of-10 from 3-point territory, leading an offense that shot 56 percent in the second half. He also hit 3-of-4 at the line in the final 16 seconds. “I knew I had it in me all along. I was just waiting for my chance,” said Wright, who registered the career high in just 20 minutes played. “I got a couple open looks early and knocked them down and felt good through the whole game.”

A first half that saw six ties and six lead changes was largely due to Wright’s timely shooting against Navy’s switch to from a pressure man-to-man to a 3-2 zone that opened up the corners. The Dogs hit four of their final five 3s of the half after starting 0-for-6. The Citadel’s top two scorers, Moore and Horgan, also were limited to a combined four points on 2-of-11 shooting, leaving plenty of opportunities. “I give [Wright] a lot of credit. We were struggling to score in the first half and he really opened things up for us,” added Driesell. “Defensively, Navy did a nice job keeping us from getting it inside.”

The Mids consistently doubled and tripled Horgan in the post, holding him to zero first-half points, but fellow senior CJ Bray took advantage, scoring nine of his 10 points before halftime and grabbing a team-best eight rebounds. Five straight Bulldog points broke a 21-21 tie at the 3:17 mark and in all produced a 26-24 halftime lead for the Cadets.

Navy’s leading scorer Brandon Venturini, who was blanked in the first half on 0-for-5 shooting, scored the Mids’ first 12 points of the second half, trading baskets with Wright at one point. The senior shot 7-of-11 in the half (4-of-5 from downtown) for a team-high 18 points. “It’s always good to see the ball go in,” said Venturini. “I had no confidence in the first half. But once the ball went in, my shot felt a lot better.”

The second half saw six more ties over the first 10 minutes, as neither team could gain the decisive edge. Wright’s sixth three with 8:58 to play gave the Dogs the lead back at 46-43 before the 7-0 Navy spurt. Moore scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, while Horgan dumped in all 12 of his points after the half and added five boards.

“It’s great to have a total team win like this,” said Moore. “Everybody stepped up today.”
The Citadel shot 47 percent from the field for the game and tied a season-high with nine 3s, while the defense held Navy to 41 percent and won the battle of the boards, 33-30. “I think we are playing our best defense of the year and the best defense of my career here [at The Citadel],” added Driesell. “Defense is what it’s all about. I think we are playing with confidence and guys are stepping up.”

The Citadel opens SoCon play Dec. 11 hosting Chattanooga, which was picked to finish second in the league’s preseason poll.

Notes
With 13 points, Ashton Moore now has 995 for his career and looks to become the 31st member of The Citadel’s 1,000 point club on Thursday.

With six assists, Marshall Harris has 394 for his career and can become just the third Bulldog in history with 400 on Thursday.

Jake Wright’s 21 points ties the most for a Citadel player against Navy, tying Ed Conroy’s 21-point effort against the Mids on Jan. 9, 1989.

The Citadel supported the Toys for Tots program, as everyone who donated a new, unopened toy received a free Coke Zero. The first 1,000 fans at McAlister Field House were given a Bulldog Tours Camo Koozie. Halftime entertainment was provided by the Real Encounter BMX team, which was recently featured on America’s Got Talent.

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