Citadel turns back Bethune-Cookman, 51-47

By Danny Reed Special to The Post and Courier
Dec 30 2014 10:40 pm

On a night where The Citadel’s offense struggled, the Bulldog defense held Bethune-Cookman without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes in the second half in a 51-47 victory over the Wildcats on Tuesday night at McAlister Field House.

In its final non-conference tune-up, The Citadel (5-7) shot 33 percent overall but also limited Bethune-Cookman (3-10) to just 33 percent from the field – its best performance against a Division I school since Feb. 2012 – and 1-of-10 from three-point territory in improving to 5-1 at home and sending the Wildcats to their 23rd consecutive non-conference road loss.

“We’ve been preaching to this ball club that that’s what we want to be judged on every game is our defense, not our offense,” said Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell. “Our defense is what won this game for us.”

Ashton Moore registered 20 points for the Bulldogs – 13 of which came in the second half – on 8-of-17 shooting and 4-of-12 from distance, while P.J. Horgan dropped in 13 points, grabbed nine rebounds and tied a career best with three steals. Point guard Marshall Harris returned after missing three games with an ankle injury and dished out a team-best four assists in 25 minutes of action.

Although Bethune-Cookman played without three regulars due to suspension including leading scorer Clemmye Owens, upstart guard Brandon Stewart – playing in just his second game of the season – converted an and-1 layup with 17:21 to play in the game, giving Bethune-Cookman the 26-25 advantage. The Wildcats would not hit another shot for the next 9:34, as Moore began his usual second-half assault. “We’ve been spending a lot of time in practice on defense and all the different nuances,” Driesell said. “It’s starting to pay off for us.”

With the Bulldogs ahead 31-28 at the 11:21 mark, the 6-1 senior from Suffolk, Va., scored The Citadel’s next eight points, including consecutive 3s around a Bethune-Cookman turnover for the Bulldogs’ largest lead at 39-31 with 8:06 left.

While the Wildcats stayed close by scoring 13 of their 25 second-half points at the free-throw line, the Bulldog defense would not let the lead slip in adding to their best home start since the 2004-05 season.

The Citadel made 5-of-6 at the line over the final 39 seconds and converted 15-of-19 overall for 79 percent.

“That’s one of the best things about being on break is that the guys can come in and get extra shots up,” Driesell said. “We spent a lot of time at the free throw line the last four days and it paid off tonight.”

Bethune Cookman’s Mikel Trapp and The Citadel’s CJ Bray traded triples in the game’s first minute for a 3-3 tie, but the Bulldogs missed their ensuing eight shots from over the next 6:03, and the Wildcats took a 13-3 lead at the 13:07 mark of the half, prompting a timeout from Driesell. “I challenged the guys about playing with great effort and having a passion for detail,” he said. “I asked them, ‘How do you feel like you’re doing?’ They said, ‘We gotta pick it up,’ and they went out and did it.”

The Wildcats were limited to only four field goals the rest of the half while the Bulldogs went on a 20-9 closing run. Horgan’s two free throws with 13 seconds left in the half helped the Bulldogs to their first lead at 23-22 into halftime.

Stewart notched a career-high 22 points on 10-of-14 at the line for Bethune-Cookman.

“I think we have to clean some things up on the offensive end, but the guys are feeling pretty good about their defense,” Driesell said. “We need to win one on the road to give our guys confidence on the defensive end because that’s what it takes to win on the road.”

The Citadel resumes Southern Conference play at Western Carolina on Saturday, looking to snap a 21-game road losing streak that dates back to February 2013. Tipoff at the Ramsey Center is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Notes:
By virtue of four made 3s, Ashton Moore moved into seventh place on The Citadel’s career made 3-pointers list with 163.

With four assists, Marshall Harris now has 398 for his career, third-most in school

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