Samford holds off Citadel rally, 98-90
Down by 30 points with little more than 10 minutes to play against Samford on Saturday afternoon, The Citadel basketball team looked out of it.
“People were hanging their heads,” said freshman guard Preston Parks. “We were feeling sorry for ourselves, losing energy,” said coach Duggar Baucom.
Perhaps through sheer embarrassment, the Bulldogs flipped a switch. They staged a furious comeback to pull within five points in the final minute, only to lose by 98-90 to Samford before 1,175 fans at McAlister Field House.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson made six free throws in the final 42 seconds to quell The Citadel’s rally, and scored 21 points to lead Samford (13-6, 4-2 Southern Conference).
Parks, making his return to the lineup after missing three games with illness, scored 19 points to lead The Citadel (9-11, 2-5). Freshman Ezekiel Balogun added 12 points, and freshman Frankie Johnson had 11 points.
The Citadel took 34 more shots than did Samford, forcing 23 turnovers and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds. But the Bulldogs shot a miserable 8 of 39 from 3-point range (20.5 percent), not nearly enough to overcome Samford’s efficient 63.5 percent from the field.
“With the exception of Matt Frierson, our guards were 0 of 18 from 3-point range,” Baucom said. “You are not going to win many games like that, it doesn’t matter how well you take care of the ball or defend. I think we are getting there, but we’ve got to combine everything together.”
Frierson hit 3 of 5 from 3-point range, and post players Ezekiel Balogun and Tom Koopman were a combined 3 of 5.
“When EZ and Koop are 3 of 5 and our guards are 0 of 18, it’s like the world is out of whack,” Baucom said. “That’s what we were faced with.”
The Citadel’s top scorer, sophomore Zane Najdawi, struggled in his matchup with Samford big man Wyatt Walker (11 points, 11 rebounds). Najdawi hit just 2 of 13 from the field for nine points with four rebounds.
The Citadel reached peak frustration when Samford took a 78-48 lead with 10:33 left.
“When you are down by 30 with 10 minutes left, you can either lose by 40 or man up and start playing,” said Baucom, who did his part by drawing a technical foul with 5:14 left and the Bulldogs down by 18. “I shouldn’t have to draw a tech to get us fired up.
Parks scored six quick points to start the rally, and then Balogun went slightly nuts. The 6-6 forward scored 12 points in a span of 2:27, including two 3-pointers, the second one pulling The Citadel within 87-73 with 4:15 left.
Free throws from Johnson and Quayson Williams finally got the margin within 10 before Frierson’s trey with 54 seconds left made it 92-87, giving The Citadel a real chance.
But Denzel-Dyson, a 6-5 transfer from Massachusetts and a 62-percent foul shooter, made all six of his free throws in the final 42 seconds.
“The way we play, we can come back from a big deficit,” Parks said. “In the second half, we started making some plays and turned up the energy a little bit. But it was too late.”
Over a stretch of about 10 minutes, The Citadel outscored Samford by 39-15 and forced 10 turnovers.
“You wonder where that was for the other 25 minutes,” Baucom said. “We turned them over, converted those, got to the line. But our defensive execution was so poor for 25 minutes.
“Samford’s got a good team, and Scott (Padgett) has done a great job with them. They’ve got good players. But I’m extremely frustrated, because it never should have got to that point.”
The Citadel is at Western Carolina on Thursday, doesn’t play at home again until Feb. 2 against Wofford.