BOILING SPRINGS - Gardner-Webb is one game shy of the halfway point in the Big South Conference regular season, with a tough task ahead on Thursday night at Winthrop.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (9-11, 4-4 Big South) have lost two in a row, but did so in very competitive fashion against two of the league's top-3 teams in Coastal Carolina (63-63 loss) and Campbell (74-68 loss). Those thrillers fit the script of the team's season to date, as all eight of Gardner-Webb's league games have been decided by two possessions or less - and an eye-popping 13 of the team's 20 overall games have come down to two possessions or less.
In fact, since current head coach Chris Holtmann took over the program prior to the 2010-2011 season, Gardner-Webb has played in 23 games decided by six points or less.
Thursday's battle at the Winthrop Coliseum will be a rematch of one of those close contests, as the Runnin' Bulldogs topped the Eagles 62-60 in Boiling Springs on December 3 earlier this season. Tashan Newsome sank the winning jumper from just outside the foul line with less than 30 seconds left - and Winthrop's final chance to win fell off the mark to give GWU its first league win of the season.
Gardner-Webb has been led this season in scoring so far by two-time Big South Conference Freshman of the Week Max Landis (11.7 ppg), who has rediscovered his shooting stroke of late - and averaged 17.0 points per game for the 'Dogs in three games last week.
Wing Tashan Newsome (10.5 ppg) has also been a major boost for the squad offensively, averaging 13.4 points per game in league play - and bumping his scoring up to 16.0 ppg in the last eight games. Newsome, who has four game-winning buckets to his credit so far this season, narrowly missed a fifth when his three-pointer rimmed out at the horn against Coastal Carolina in a 65-63 loss.
The Runnin' Bulldogs have also gotten improved production in the paint from forward Stefon Johnson, who is averaging 9.0 rebounds per game over his last five starts.
Winthrop is led by Big South Player of the Year candidate Andre Jones, who ranks third in the Big South at 18.1 ppg and had 25 points on sizzling 10-of-14 shooting in the matchup against Gardner-Webb in December.
Thursday's game will air on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org), with the pregame show beginning at 6:45 pm. Fabian Fuentes, the Voice of the Runnin' Bulldogs, will provide the call.