RECAP: Samford holds on down the stretch for 98-90 road win over The Citadel

Josh Sharkey was in the starting lineup on Saturday afternoon, and the freshman recorded 17 points and 5 assists to help lead Samford to the 96-84 victory over The Citadel.
Josh Sharkey continued his strong play in 2016-17, as the freshman recorded 18 points and 5 assists to help lead Samford to the 98-90 victory over The Citadel.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — After a four-game winning streak, a stretch that included back-to-back wins to open up Southern Conference play, the Samford Bulldogs have taken a slight detour over their last three games.

The Bulldogs entered Saturday’s contest having lost two of their last three games, and were coming off a 68-65 defeat at home to the Mercer Bears on Wednesday night. They were looking to kick off their two-game road swing with an impressive performance against The Citadel Bulldogs in Charleston, South Carolina.

Like Samford, the host Bulldogs came into Saturday’s tilt having lost two of their previous three games. One thing about The Citadel is that their offense can go off at any given time. They have found themselves in several offensive shootouts in 2016-17, and have topped the 100-point mark on eight occasions (6-2).

Samford needed a strong start out of the gate to take the momentum away from The Citadel. The visitors took a 15-point lead into the break, and looked to be in good shape as the second half ticked down.

The Citadel closed to within five points in the final minute, but timely free throw shooting sealed the deal for Samford, and the visitors came away with the 98-90 victory in the battle of the Bulldogs.

The first six minutes of the contest were back-and-forth, as both teams were trying to find their rhythm on both ends of the court. Freshman Josh Sharkey got a layup to fall with 14:06 to play to tie game up at 11-all, and Samford would never trail again the rest of the night.

They would build on their lead as the first half ticked on, and the lead reached as many as 17 points in the opening half. Terry Brutus hit a pair of free throws to give Samford the 45-28 advantage with under four minutes to play before the half.

Zane Najdawl scored four straight for The Citadel to cut the deficit to 11, but Samford would stretch their lead back to 15 before the halftime buzzer.

The second half was more of the same, as Samford had a firm grasp on their halftime lead. They looked to be in control of the game, but their lead started to slip away down the stretch, as the home side looked to take a lead of their own and steal a win at home.

With 6:52 to play in the game, Triston Chambers connected on a three pointer to give Samford an 85-61 lead. At the time, it looked as if the game was in the bag, but The Citadel had other ideas.

Over the next 4:57, the home side went on a 26-7 run to cut the deficit down to just five points with under a minute to play in the game. Matt Friesen hit a three pointer to cap off the run, putting all the momentum behind The Citadel.

However, that was as close as they would come, as their comeback efforts would fall short in the end.

Samford hit enough free throws in the final 55 seconds to seal the deal, and avoid a New Mexico-esque collapse down the stretch.

The visiting Bulldogs held on and came away with the 98-90 win over the host Bulldogs.

It was a balanced scoring attack that led Samford to the win, as six players scored in double-figures. Demetrius Denzel-Dyson scored a game-high 21 points, while Josh Sharkey added 18 points and 5 assists in the win.

Wyatt Walker recorded another double-double, adding 11 points and 11 rebounds while shooting a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.

It was also a milestone afternoon for junior Christen Cunningham. With his 6 points, he became the 27th player in program history to top the 1,000-point plateau.

For The Citadel, Preston Parks led the way, scoring a team-best 19 points to go along with 5 assists. Zane Najdawl was held to just 9 points on 2-of-13 shooting in the loss.

The win kicked off a two-game road swing for the Samford Bulldogs (13-6, 4-2), and should give them confidence moving forwards. They have a week in between games, as they take on the Chattanooga Mocs next Saturday, the 21st.

As for The Citadel Bulldogs (9-11. 2-4), the loss at home wasn’t how the team planned to spend their brief break from being on the road. The Bulldogs return to the road on Thursday night, when they take on the Western Carolina Catamounts.

– T. Bennett