BOILING SPRINGS – David Efianayi scored 21 points off the bench to lead Gardner-Webb to a 79-75 win over Charleston Southern Saturday afternoon in Big South Conference action.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (9-8, 2-2 Big South) pushed ahead by 17 points midway through the second half and appeared poised to cruise to an easy home win, but Charleston Southern (4-11, 0-4 Big South) had other ideas.
After Efianayi finished a breakout with a layup, Gardner-Webb led 66-49 with 10:59 to play in the game. The Buccaneers called a 30-second timeout and began to whittle away at the lead, uncorking a 16-2 run over the next 5:10 to cut the lead to one possession.
Efianayi responded with a jumper to push the lead to 70-65 with 5:11 remaining and answered another CSU bucket with a nifty runner in the lane for a 72-67 lead with 3:46 left.
After Laquincy Rideau put GWU up 74-69 with 3:01 to play, Armel Potter responded with back—to-back shots to cut the lead all the way down to 74-73 with 2:05 on the clock. Tyrell Nelson and Efianayi answered with buckets on consecutive possessions to give Gardner-Webb some breathing room with 1:17 on the clock – and Brandon Miller sank a free throw with 10.6 seconds left to seal the win.
Gardner-Webb shot a sizzling 62.5 percent in the second half to finish at 54.5 percent for the game, with Nelson scoring 15 points and Rideau adding 14 in a fine offensive performance for the Runnin' Bulldogs. Rideau nearly pulled off a triple-double, dishing off nine assists and pulling down nine rebounds in 32 minutes.
Nelson's post touches and the driving of Efianayi and Rideau helped Gardner-Webb own a 58-30 edge in the paint, and the the Runnin' Bulldogs got out and ran when able – holding a 20-6 edge in transition. GWU also held a 34-29 edge on the backboards.
Miller added nine points, three rebounds and three blocked shots off the bench and Liam O'Reilly drained three long range jumpers to finish with nine points.
Charleston Southern got 18 points from Cortez Mitchell, 16 points each from Potter and Jamal Thomas and 13 points from forward Javis Howard in the loss. Thomas was red-hot early, scoring seven of his team's first nine points and 12 points as the Buccaneers built an early nine-point lead – before Gardner-Webb rallied to lead 42-38 at halftime.
The Buccaneers shot 45.8 percent for the game (27-of-59), but went 14-of-19 at the charity stripe and knocked down seven three-pointers.
Gardner-Webb will host Campbell on Wednesday, January 11 at 7:00 pm in Paul Porter Arena. The game will stream live on The Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com)