After the run by Presbyterian (6-18, 3-7 Big South) put the Runnin’ Bulldogs in a 55-52 hole with 2:06 left, Tashan Newsome was able to get Gardner-Webb (13-11, 5-5 Big South) back on the board, hitting a step-back jumper from 17 feet with 40.0 seconds on the clock to make the score 55-54. The Blue Hose caught a break on their next possession, as Ryan McTavish snuck open for a layup with just one second on the shot clock – and just 5.7 seconds on the game clock – for a 57-54 edge.
Sitting below the foul minimum, the Blue Hose fouled on the inbounds catch to bleed a few tenths off the clock, and Newsome’s straightaway 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds to go was long. The rebound was tipped away, snapping Gardner-Webb’s win streak at three games. The Runnin' Bulldogs have dropped nine of its last 10 games at The Templeton Center, dating back to the 1992-1993 season.
Newsome finished with a game-high 23 points – his third in a row with more than 20 – making 8-of-13 shots from the floor and 4-of-5 from long distance. Jarvis Davis came off the bench again to reach double figures, scoring 10 points and Donta Harper added nine. No other Gardner-Webb player had more than four points.
The game started off at a steady but deliberate pace, with Presbyterian draining a pair of 3-pointers late in the shot clock on two possessions in a row for an 8-6 lead at the initial media timeout. Gardner-Webb answered with a pair of treys from Newsome to surge in front 12-10, and the Runnin’ Bulldogs made their next two shots from the floor to take a 17-14 lead on a Davis 3-pointer with 11:30 to play in the first half.
Both teams shot over 70 percent for the first 10 minutes of the game before cooling off slightly. Gardner-Webb would extend its lead to six points, 25-19, on a Tyler Strange three with 6:59 to go in the half – but the Blue Hose chipped away with an 11-1 run to take a 30-26 lead with just over one minute left on the clock.
Gardner-Webb, which missed 10 of its 12 shots after a red-hot start, got a 3-pointer from Newsome with 30.4 seconds left to cut the lead to 30-29, but a wide open layup for William Truss underneath with six seconds left made the score 32-29 at the break.
Newsome made all five of his field goal attempts in the opening stanza to lead all scorers with 14 points at halftime. Washington paced the Blue Hose with 10 points, making 4-of-5 shots and a pair of free throws.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs came out with inside buckets on the first two possessions of the second half to retake the lead, 33-32. Donta Harper added a free throw with 16:13 left for a 34-32 lead and picked off a pass for a two-handed slam with 15:58 on the clock for a 36-32 edge.
Newsome connected on a 3-pointer late in the shot clock to put the ‘Dogs up five, and Max Landis made the score 41-36 on a short jumper just before the first dead ball of the half forced the under-16 media timeout with 12:18 on the game clock. The lead grew to seven points, 43-36, on a Jerome Hill tip in with 11:53 to play.
The Blue Hose broke through on a Downing 3-pointer with 10:57 left to snap a cold spell from the perimeter, and got within two points, 43-41, on a pair of Khalid Mutakabbir free throws with 10:13 left, slowing a Gardner-Webb run that had been 14-4 to start the half.
After Presbyterian’s burst, Gardner-Webb answered with pressure defense that sparked a 6-0 run and its largest lead of the game, 49-41, after a pair of Davis free throws with 9:19 to play.
The Blue Hose would not go away, however, as another three from Downing cut the lead to just three points, 49-46, with 5:55 remaining. That would be a key stroke in a 10-3 run that would trim Gardner-Webb’s advantage to 52-51 with 3:13 left on a floater by Mutakabbir in the lane. The run grew to 14-3 after a Josh Clyburn layup put the Blue Hose on top and a steal on the Runnin’ Bulldogs next possession led to another baseline shot from McTavish and a 55-52 lead for the home team with just 1:59 remaining.
Gardner-Webb came up empty on its next possession, with two close looks at the basket falling short, but got the ball back with 1:09 on the clock after a drawing an charge on the defensive end – setting up Newsome’s 17-footer to pull closer.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs hit eight of their first 11 shots in the game, but finished at just 38.5 percent (20-of-52). Gardner-Webb also saw a sizeable advantage on the glass disappear down the stretch, with the Blue Hose outrebounding the ‘Dogs 9-0 over the last seven minutes of action. GWU finished the game with a 25-24 edge on the glass.
Presbyterian also started with sizzling shooting, making seven of its first 10 shots. The Blue Hose cooled off midway through the first half, but stabilized to finish at 52.3 percent for the game. After missing eight of its first 10 shots to fall behind at the start of the second half, PC made eight of its final 12 attempts (66.7 percent) to retake the lead and close out the game.
Wednesday marked only the third time all season that a team has shot 50 percent or better against Gardner-Webb.
Washington led the Blue Hose with 13 points, Downing added 11 and McTavish joined Mutakabbir with 10 points in the scoring column.
Gardner-Webb returns home to host a rapidly improving Liberty team at 7:00 pm Saturday. The game is set to be broadcast on ESPN3.