Boiling Springs, N.C. - The Gardner-Webb women’s basketball season saw their season come to an end on a missed last second shot in the Big South Conference Tournament Championship game, falling to the No. 1 seed Liberty Flames 51-50. The Bulldogs made it to the Championship game in their first season as members of the League. Gardner-Webb finished the season 17-15 overall and 7-9 in the conference.
The 2008-09 season was a special one for the Bulldogs in a number of different ways. First off, the Bulldogs made it to the Championship game in only its first year as a member of the Big South Conference. The 17 wins is the most wins in one season that the women’s basketball program has had since moving to the NCAA Division I in 2000-01. Gardner-Webb won 11 home games, the most home wins in one season since moving to the NCAA Division I and posted a nine-game home winning streak the longest in the programs history.
The historical season doesn’t stop there, as in the Bulldogs first home game of the season GWU recorded the program’s largest margin of victory in the 48-point win over UVA-Wise and broke three school records in the process. GWU won its first ever Big South Conference game on January 17, defeating Charleston Southern 60-50 at home. The Bulldogs also posted its first ever wins over Charleston Southern (Jan. 17) and Presbyterian (Jan. 26).
Gardner-Webb posted an 8-5 non-conference record, the first time that it has posted a winning non-conference record since moving to NCAA Division I. The eight non-conference wins were the most non-conference wins in Division I history. GWU’s road win over Winthrop on February 23, was the largest come from behind victory in its history, as the Bulldogs erased a 15 point second half deficit to win 65-62.
Individual history was made in 2008-09, as Head Coach Rick Reeves’ recorded his 70th career Big South Conference win with the win over UNC Asheville on February 16, and currently sits with 71 conference victories. Junior Margaret Roundtree surpassed the 500-rebound plateau in the same game, a win over UNC Asheville, becoming only the fourth player to surpass 500 rebounds in GWU’s Division I history.
The 2008-09 season tipped off in Texas as the Bulldogs dropped its season opener 79-58 to the University of Houston, where Houston native Courtney Epps poured in a then career-high 16 points in the effort.
Yet the loss proved to be a good experience for the Bulldogs, as Gardner-Webb returned home to win its next four games in dominating fashion. In its first win of the year, a 97-49 home victory over UVA Wise, the Bulldogs set a handful of school records including the largest win in the programs history.
In the Bulldogs next three-games, Coach Reeves’ squad defeated North Carolina Central, South Carolina State and Tennessee Temple to move to 4-1 on the season.
However, the Bulldogs next six games were away from the friendly confines of Paul Porter Arena, as the young Gardner-Webb squad struggled on the road at the beginning of the season. Over the six game road trip the Bulldogs posted a 2-4 record, picking up wins at Winston-Salem State, 64-55, and against Atlantic Sun Conference foe Lipscomb, 66-64, in the Dayton Flyer Classic.
With a 6-5 record heading into the new year, the Bulldogs provided fireworks on New Year’s Day, defeating Montreat College 85-57 in Boiling Springs, N.C. With the win, the Bulldogs extended its home winning streak to five games and posted a strong performance to kick off the new year before heading into its first ever Big South Conference game.
On January 3, 2009, the Bulldogs made history as the program played in its first ever Big South Conference game, traveling to Lynchburg, Va. to take on the defending conference champions in the Liberty Lady Flames. Coach Reeves, who had coached at Liberty from 1990-1999, had his homecoming spoiled as the Bulldogs struggled from the floor offensively in its conference opener and ultimately falling 55-42.
Gardner-Webb continued its tough conference slate with the next three conference games coming on the road at Radford, at UNC Asheville and at High Point. The Bulldogs saw a four-point halftime lead disappear in the 82-74 loss to Radford on January 5, and struggled from the opening tip to score points in the 67-59 loss to UNC Asheville on January 10. The Bulldogs fell to 0-4 in the conference with a 55-44 loss to High Point on January 12, again a road contest in which the young Bulldog team failed to execute efficiently on the offensive end.
Sitting at 7-9 and 0-4 in the Big South, Coach Reeves and his staff did not panic but rather regrouped, as the Bulldogs returned home for its next three games.
In the first home game, the Bulldogs made history as GWU defeated Charleston Southern 60-50 to pick up its first ever conference win as members of the Big South. The Bulldogs carried over that momentum to defeat both Winthrop, 54-53, and Presbyterian, 56-48, over its next two home games, improving to 3-4 in conference play.
Gardner-Webb then stepped out of conference play for the last time on January 28, as the Bulldogs hit 10 three-pointers and dominated the Appalachian State Mountaineers, winning on the road 77-62. With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 8-5 in non-conference action on the year, the most non-conference wins a GWU team has had since moving to the NCAA Division I level in 2000-01.
With an 11-9 overall record, the Bulldogs jumped back into conference play, falling at Coastal Carolina 70-54 on January 31. The loss snapped the Bulldogs winning streak at four games and left Coach Reeves’ squad winless on the road in conference play.
After the Coastal Carolina loss, the Bulldogs returned home to defeat Radford 55-53, avenging an earlier season loss and stretching its home winning streak to nine-games on the season.
However, only two days later, on February 9, the Bulldogs home winning streak was snapped, as the Liberty Lady Flames held off a feisty Gardner-Webb squad to win 63-60 and hand the Bulldogs its first home loss of the season.
Yet the Bulldogs did not roll over and play dead, as Gardner-Webb answered with two straight home wins over High Point, 63-60, who was second in the League, and UNC Asheville, 74-61, who had defeated the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
The win over UNC Asheville was a memorable one, as the win was Coach Reeves’ 70th career Big South Conference win. In the win, the Bulldogs Margaret Roundtree hauled in her 500th career rebound, becoming only the fifth GWU player to surpass the 500 career rebounding plateau since the Bulldogs move to Division I.
Yet the high would not last long, as the Bulldogs suffered a major let down five days later, falling at to the last-place Blue Hose of Presbyterian College 62-53.
With only three games remaining in the regular season, the Bulldogs just hoped to have enough players dress out to finish the year, as Coach Reeves’ squad was hit hard by the injury bug as the season winded down with games at Winthrop and Charleston Southern and at home against Coastal Carolina.
In the game at Winthrop on February 23, the Bulldogs trailed for the majority of the first 30 minutes of play and found themselves down by 15 with a little over 10 minutes to go in the contest. The Bulldogs raced back to erase the 15 point second half deficit and watched an Eagles last second shot go off the left side of the rim to give the Bulldogs the 65-62 road conference win. The win was the Bulldogs first conference road win of the season and is the largest comeback win by a Bulldogs team since moving to NCAA Division I.
However, the short-handed Bulldogs dropped its last two games of the regular season, falling 80-68 at Charleston Southern and 60-57 in the home finale versus the Lady Chanticleers to finish the regular season at 15-14 overall and 7-9 in the conference.
With its 7-9 conference record, the Bulldogs entered its first ever Big South Conference Women’s Basketball Championship as the No. 6 seed.
In the first round, the Bulldogs knocked down 23-of-27 free throws and clamped down defensively to hold the No. 3 seed Radford Highlanders to 24.3 percent shooting from the floor en route to picking up the 61-50 win.
After winning its first ever Big South Conference Championship tournament game, the Bulldogs continued its magical run, upsetting the tournament host and No. 2 seed High Point Panthers, 78-76, on two made free throws by guards Dominique Hudson and Meranda Burnett in the final 35 seconds of play.
With the win the Bulldogs moved on to the Championship game in only its first year as Big South members and became the first No. 6 seed to reach the final game since UNC Asheville in 1998.
In the Championship game on March 15, the Bulldogs gave the top-seeded Liberty Lady Flames a tough challenge for all 40 minutes of play, as Hudson’s last second shot attempt rolled off the left side of the rim to give the Lady Flames the 51-50 win.
Junior Margaret Roundtree and red-shirt junior Laura Povilonyte were both named to the Second-Team All-Conference team, while Roundtree and Dominique Hudson both eared a spot on the All-Tournament team for their strong performances throughout the Bulldogs historical tournament run.