The Runnin' Bulldogs (12-10, 4-4 Big South) wrapped up the first half of conference play on a high note, winning two road games in a row in difficult venues – handling VMI 63-49 in Lexington, Va., and nipping league leader Charleston Southern, 74-73, in overtime in the Buc Dome Wednesday night.
Saturday night's challenge will come from a Longwood squad that has been a tough out in its first season of Big South Conference play. The Lancers (3-19, 0-8 Big South) are searching for their first league win, but have taken several of the Big South's heavyweights down to the wire.
Forward Michael Kessens (12.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg) is one of the nation's leading freshmen rebounders and is a strong candidate for Big South Freshman of the Year honors. The 6-foot-9 native of Nyon, Switzerland netted 22 points in the Lancers' game at High Point on Wednesday.
Guard Tristan Carey (14.9 ppg) is one of the Big South's most potent scorers on the perimeter and poured in a career-high 30 points in a win over Florida A&M in late November.
"This will be a challenging, hard fought contest," said Gardner-Webb head coach Chris Holtmann. "Just recently, Longwood went up to Asheville and lost at the buzzer. They have great size and can really shoot the ball."
Gardner-Webb got a signature performance in its overtime win over Charleston Southern from redshirt senior Tashan Newsome. The Albany, N.Y., native netted 22 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and fought over the defense to convert a 3-point play with 29.5 seconds left in overtime to win the game. Newsome also corralled the game's final defensive rebound as the horn sounded after a CSU miss.
The brightest spot from Wednesday night's win may have been the play of reserve point guard Jarvis Davis. The cat-quick redshirt sophomore tallied a career-high 14 points, made 4-of-7 shots and dished off a pair of assists in 19 minutes. The transfer from UCF made all five of his free throw attempts, and is shooting 90.5 percent on the season (19-of-21). He and starting point guard Tyler Strange (13 points) combined for 27 points and six assists on Wednesday night.
Newsome leads the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) after his big night in the Low Country, followed by sophomore wing Donta Harper (13.1 ppg). Forward Kevin Hartley continues to be a intriguing story for the Runnin' Bulldogs, with his 50.6 percent shooting from 3-point range on the season the top mark in the Big South Conference. Hartley falls just below the league minimum for made threes per game to qualify for the leader board. He is shooting well above 60 percent in league play, which paces the circuit.
Hartley made a pair of treys and finished with nine points on Wednesday night.
Longwood and GWU will play for the first time since the 2008-2009 season, when the Runnin' Bulldogs lost an 85-84 decision in Farmville, Va., in the second game of the season. Longwood leads the all-time series over Gardner-Webb 5-3, with Gardner-Webb's last win coming in 1992-1993.
Saturday's game will air live on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org), with Fabian Fuentes calling the action. A video broadcast of the game is available via the Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com).