BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb returns home to host surging Radford on Wednesday night in another critical Big South Conference contest. Opening tip is set for 7:00 pm on ESPN3 (WatchESPN.com).
The Runnin’ Bulldogs (14-13, 7-7 Big South) sit in fifth place – one game out of fourth – after a pair of close losses last week. Radford (11-15, 6-8 Big South) enjoyed a much different week, beating Charleston Southern at home Thursday night, then nipping High Point in overtime on Saturday.
Gardner-Webb led Winthrop at the break Saturday afternoon, 41-40, but could not keep pace with the Eagles in the second half of a 77-71 loss. GWU did put four men in double figures – led by David Efianayi’s 13 points – but fell victim to an offensive rebounding surge by Winthrop that limited possessions by Gardner-Webb more than it allowed second-chance points.
The byproduct was a field goal drought of more than nine minutes that was part of a larger spell that saw GWU make just two field goals in the final 13:30. Gardner-Webb was able to get into the lane and made enough free throws (21-of-27, 77.8 percent) to keep the game tight until the final horn.
Radford’s calling card is its work on the glass, and the Highlanders were all over the backboards on Saturday in the High Point win. When the final horn sounded, Radford had 59 rebounds, including an eye-popping 21 on the offensive end – which accounted for grabbing exactly half of its 42 misses from the floor.
Three men – Ed Polite, Jr., Randy Phillips and guard Donald Hicks – finished the night with double-doubles. Polite, who averages close a double-double for the season, is tied for the league lead with 11 double-doubles. He had 13 caroms against Gardner-Webb earlier this season – when the Highlanders hit the offensive glass 15 times in a 70-59 loss to the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Phillips – a burly, 6-foot-8 forward – had 10 points and 12 boards vs. the Runnin’ Bulldogs in January.
An unusual dynamic in the all-time series is the lack of home court advantage. Gardner-Webb leads the series (9-8), but is just 3-5 on its home court vs. the Highlanders. The games have historically been tight in Paul Porter Arena – with last year’s 22-point win by the Runnin’ Bulldogs an exception.
In the win at Radford on January 4, Gardner-Webb went inside with success – scoring 42 points in the paint. Tyrell Nelson finished with a game-high 19 points and Brandon Miller came off the bench with 12 points to lead that inside effort. GWU shot 51.9 percent as a result, including 53.3 percent in the second half to keep the Highlanders from catching up.
Play-by-play man Evan Lepler and color analyst Jeff Jackson will call Wednesday’s action from their courtside location in Paul Porter Arena.
For tickets or more information regarding Wednesday night’s game, call Gardner-Webb athletics at (704) 406-4340.