ASHEVILLE – UNC Asheville erased a 10-point deficit in the second half and outlasted Gardner-Webb in overtime, 90-85, Saturday afternoon in a Big South Conference thriller.
Down six points with one minute left in regulation, Gardner-Webb (7-8, 0-2 Big South) turned up its defensive heat and got a three-pointer from Jamaal Robateau with 1.9 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
The Runnin' Bulldogs scored first in the extra period, but UNC Asheville (9-6, 1-1 Big South) continued to sizzle from long range itself to secure the win. David Robertson made a pair in the final 99 seconds – his first with 1:39 to play regained the lead for UNC Asheville and his second put the home team up 86-81 with 53.7 seconds left.
Gardner-Webb pulled within three on a Liam O'Relly layup with 10.7 seconds left, but a home run pass and dunk for Ahmad Thomas with five seconds to go sealed the game.
The Runnin' Bulldogs used a late surge in the first half to lead 34-28 at halftime, and used an 8-0 run near the midway point in the second half to go up 48-38 with 13:02 to play in the game.
UNC Asheville turned to its defense with a three-quarter court pressure to mount a rally, getting the crowd in the game in the process. A trey by by Robertson – his third of the half – cut lead to 49-44, and a steal and layup from Thomas out of the press stirred the crowd and forced a GWU timeout with 11:24 remaining. The physical defensive pressure continued to work out of the timeout, as Thomas picked up another steal and layup to cut the lead to one point.
Another turnover gave Asheville a chance to take the lead, but a defensive stop by GWU and a jump hook from Laster stemmed the tide. MaCio Teague got open from the corner on Asheville's next possession, however, and tied the game at 51 with a three-pointer.
A follow dunk by Laster gave GWU a 55-53 lead with 9:31 left and UNC Asheville drew a technical foul with 9:21 remaining after the play. Robateau made both free throws for a 57-53 edge.
Robertson answered with a triple on the other end to cut the lead back to one and gave Asheville the lead with a length of the court drive with 8:41 remaining.
Laquincy Rideau tied the game with a free throw at the 7:34 mark, but Teague stepped into a short jumper for a 60-58 lead on the next possession. William Weeks followed his own miss after another GWU turnover to put the hosts up 62-58.
Asheville's momentum continued to build and the lead grew to as many as six for the hosts – before Gardner-Webb's counter attack in the final 90 seconds.
UNC Asheville was red-hot from long range, making 16-of-31 shots from that distance (51.6 percent). The Bulldogs also shot 51.6 percent from the floor overall (32-62) and forced 24 Gardner-Webb turnovers (11 steals).
Teague finished with a game-high 25 points to lead UNC Asheville and Robertson scored all 23 of his points in the second half and overtime. Thomas (16 points), Vannatta (11 points) and Weeks (10 points) also reached double figures.
Gardner-Webb shot a solid 50.8 percent for the game, including a 9-for-18 effort from deep. The 'Dogs also held a 39-33 edge on the glass and turned Asheville over 20 times (11 steals).
Robateau and Rideau each scored 16 points to lead the Runnin' Bulldogs. David Efianayi added 15 points off the bench and O'Reilly scored 12.
Gardner-Webb will face another difficult road test next, traveling to first-place Radford (2-0 Big South) for a 7:00 pm tip on January 4. The Highlanders nipped preseason favorite Winthrop, 82-80, on the road Saturday afternoon – and beat UNC Asheville in overtime on Thursday.