BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. - Donta Harper's two free throws with 10.9 seconds left gave Gardner-Webb a 57-56 lead, and Stefon Johnson rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Delaware State at the buzzer to preserve the win.
The game snapped an eight-game win streak for Delaware State (12-12), which sits a half game out of first place in the MEAC standings. Gardner-Webb (12-17) improved to 9-3 at home with the victory, and won for the first time in the Sears BracketBusters event since beginning play in 2009.
Tashan Newsome led the way with 13 points, Stefon Johnson added 12 points, Harper scored 11 points off the bench and center Mike Byron supplied 10 points and 12 rebounds - including nine on the offensive end.
"We beat a strong, well coached basketball team tonight that is near the top of their league standings with a very good chance to make a run at an NCAA berth," said Gardner-Webb head coach Chris Holtmann. "I am proud of our kids. I told our team this would be a very difficult team to play, and they were."
In a game defined by massive runs by both teams, Gardner-Webb went on an 11-0 run midway through the first half to go up 22-16 with 4:14 to play before the break - and led 31-24 at halftime. The Runnin' Bulldogs extended that lead to 47-34 with 10:12 to play in the game on a pair of Harper free throws - but it was Delaware State's turn to go on a tear.
The Hornets responded to their largest deficit of the game with a 15-0 run to take a 49-47 lead with 5:37 remaining on Casey Walker's 3-pointer - and eventually stretched the run to 22-2 on a follow shot by Marques Oliver with 2:50 to play to lead 56-49.
Gardner-Webb would mount the game's final run, with Tashan Newsome starting an 8-0 run with a layup at the 2:24 mark to cut into the lead. A Delaware State turnover - one of three in the final two minutes - led to a transition tip in by Stefon Johnson with 1:55 to play to cut the lead to 56-53. The Hornets missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity with 1:28 left and the 'Dogs cut the lead to two with 1:19 left on a Johnson free throw.
A turnover with 53.7 seconds remaining by Delaware State gave Gardner-Webb another chance to pull closer, and Newsome trimmed the lead to one by making the front end of a two-shot foul with 37.4 seconds left.
A DSU miss on the front end of the 1-and-1 with 21.3 seconds remaining kept the door open for the Runnin' Bulldogs - but a charge call on Harper sucked energy out of the building with 15.2 seconds left.
The freshman from Winterville, N.C., redeemed himself moments later. Newsome stole the inbounds pass from Jay Threatt and hit Harper underneath for a layup chance and he was fouled in the act - setting up the last second heroics.
Tyshawn Bell missed a contested 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left from the right corner and Johnson pulled down the rebound as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
Forward Marques Oliver led Delaware State with 18 points and six rebounds, Casey Walker scored 12 and Bell came off the bench to score 11 - hitting 3-of-6 from long distance. Leading scorer Tahj Tate, who had averaged 24.5 ppg over his last two games, was held to just six points on 3-of-11 shooting - with all six markers coming in the first half.
Both teams shot 42.9 percent on the night, making an identical 21-of-49 from the floor. The Hornets held a big advantage from 3-point range (8-of-20), but Gardner-Webb made its mark at the free throw line (14-of-19) and in the paint (32 points). The 'Dogs also held a sizeable 40-21 edge on the glass (16 offensive rebounds).
At one point in the game, Gardner-Webb held a 20-8 edge on the backboards, and finished the game with a 18-10 edge in second-chance points.
The Runnin' Bulldogs return to conference play on Thursday, traveling to face Big South regular season champion UNC Asheville at 7:00 pm.