Gardner-Webb will open its 2012-2013 season on the road Friday night, traveling to face No. 11 North Carolina at 7:00 pm in Chapel Hill. The game will air live on Fox Sports / Regional Sports Network, with Mike Hogewood and Mike Gminksi calling the action. The game will also be broadcast on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org).
North Carolina leads the all-time series over Gardner-Webb by a 3-0 count ... The two teams last met on November 23, 2009, with then No. 12 North Carolina taking a 93-72 win ... GWU guard Grayson Flittner scored 32 points in that matchup, hitting nine three-pointers ... Friday will be the third time Gardner-Webb has met North Carolina with the Tar Heels ranked in the top-25 ... Gardner-Webb nearly upset the defending national champions on November 19, 2005 before falling 83-80 on a buzzer beater by David Noel in both teams’ season opener.
Gardner-Webb, picked to finish fifth in a loaded South Division in the Big South Conference preseason poll, garnered a measure of respect from ESPN the Magazine in its college basketball preview edition. The magazine rated Gardner-Webb No. 217 overall in Division I, which was the No. 2 rating among all Big South Conference schools.
TOUGH EARLY SLATE
Gardner-Webb will play eight games in the season’s first 16 days, with road matchups at No. 11 North Carolina (11/9), DePaul (11/15), Iowa (11/17) and Illinois (11/25) included in that busy schedule. The Runnin’ Bulldogs will play on back-to-back nights three times in the season’s first month. GWU takes on Covenant (Ga.) just one night after its opener against the Tar Heels and will play a home game against Lipscomb (11/14) just one night before flying to Chicago to take on DePaul. The ‘Dogs will also play Howard (11/20) and either Austin Peay or Western Carolina (11/21) as part of the Mayan Division schedule at the 2012 Cancun Challenge in Mexico.
Gardner-Webb saw its share of tight games last season, with 20 of the team’s 32 games decided by two possessions or less. The Runnin’ Bulldogs played 11 such games in its last 15, going 4-2 at home and 0-5 on the road. GWU was 2-1 in overtime games last season, winning at Chattanooga (11/27) and vs. High Point (1/7) – and losing at High Point (2/4).
AGAINST RANKED FOES
Gardner-Webb is 1-8 in its NCAA Division I history when playing against teams ranked in either the Associated Press or USAToday/ESPN Coaches Top 25. The lone win in those meetings came in decisive fashion, with Gardner-Webb whipping then No. 20 Kentucky, 84-68, on November 7, 2007 in Rupp Arena. GWU had another close call at No. 12 Oklahoma, falling 80-76 on November 23, 2008 – with the Sooners getting 35 points and 21 rebounds from Blake Griffin.
Gardner-Webb redshirt senior Tashan Newsome has been a pleasant surprise since joining the program after transferring from Mississippi Valley State prior to the 2010-2011 campaign. The Albany, N.Y., native has emerged as one of the Big South’s most physical guards and led the Runnin’ Bulldogs in scoring (12.3 ppg) last season – bumping that average to 14.0 ppg in league games. Newsome, who played high school basketball in a strong Colonie (N.Y.) High program and a well respected Albany City Rocks summer program, was solid in his lone matchup against an ACC foe last season – netting 24 points in a competitive loss at Wake Forest on December 18.
POINT GUARD DEPTH
Gardner-Webb will have some depth at the point guard spot in 2012-2013, with incumbent Tyler Strange (5-9, 175, So.) joined by UCF transfer Jarvis Davis (6-0, 180, RSo.) in what has been a healthy competition so far in the preseason. Davis, who held several major Division I offers after a postgraduate season at Hargrave Military (Va.) Academy in 2010, sat out last season at Gardner-Webb in accordance with NCAA Division I transfer regulations. Sophomore sharpshooter Max Landis (6-2, 175) is also capable of running the point for the Runnin’ Bulldogs when needed.
CLOSE CALLS AGAINST THE ACC
Gardner-Webb is 0-15 all-time in men’s basketball against members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but has been completitive in several of those matchups over the years. Below are some of the closest calls Gardner-Webb has experienced against ACC members:
12/14/02 – at Clemson (L, 71-61) – Led at halftime
12/19/02 – at Virginia (L, 72-65) – 40 second-half points
11/19/05 – at North Carolina (L, 83-80) – Game tied, 80-80, with 11 seconds left
11/24/06 - at NC State (L, 88-76) - Led at halftime
11/14/08 – at Virginia Tech (L, 65-62) – Missed three at buzzer
12/18/11 – at Wake Forest (L, 67-58) – Led at halftime
HIGHLY RATED WING JOINS PROGRAM
Naji Hibbert (6-5, 190, Sr.) transferred to Gardner-Webb in June to begin summer school, and will play his final season on the college hardwood in 2013-2014 with the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Hibbert, a top-60 recruit out of DeMatha Catholic, spent his first three seasons at Big 12 member Texas A&M. A native of Baltimore, Md., Hibbert will sit out the 2012-2013 season in accordance with NCAA Division I transfer regulations.