Gardner-Webb tops Charleston Southern, 77-74, in critical Big South Conference battle

Gardner-Webb beats Charleston Southern

Press release provided by Gardner-Webb Athletics

BOILING SPRINGS – David Efianayi scored a career-high 33 points, including five in the final 93 seconds, to lead Gardner-Webb to a 77-74 win over Charleston Southern Wednesday night.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs (16-10, 6-5 Big South) improved to 10-0 in Paul Porter Arena this season and have won 22 of their last 24 at home.

Jose Perez added 12 points and four assists, Eric Jamison, Jr., had 11 points and six rebounds and Nate Johnson supplied 10 points and eight boards for Gardner-Webb.

Efianayi scored 19 points in a crisp first half for Gardner-Webb, which saw the home squad lead by as many as 17 points, shoot 51.4 percent and hold a 47-33 lead by intermission. Charleston Southern (11-13, 5-6 Big South) took an early 8-7 lead, but saw the Runnin’ Bulldogs answer with a 16-13 run over the next 4:47 to seize momentum.

Perez added two more three-pointers – and Jamison knocked in a triple – over the next three minutes to extend the lead to 32-19. A pair of Efianayi free throws with 1:26 left in the half made the score 47-30.

Charleston Southern had plenty of fight left, starting the second half on a 9-0 run to shift the tide of the game quickly – and extended its surge to 15-4 by the under 16 media to trim Gardner-Webb’s lead all the way to 51-48 with 15:37 left.

After Gardner-Webb gathered its footing again with layups from Johnson and Efianayi, The Buccaneers used another 7-1 spurt to go ahead 57-56 on a Christian Keeling trey with 11:56 to play. Another Keeling long ball made it 60-57 with 10:24 to go and the Runnin’ Bulldogs were reeling.

Jamison made a key play with 9:58 remaining, driving for a layup and foul to tie the game. A steal by Perez on the ensuing possession also proved vital, as Jaheam Cornwall pitched ahead to Johnson for a three-pointer and a 63-60 lead with 9:47 on the clock.

Gardner-Webb would lead the rest of the way.

Charleston Southern would cut the lead to a single point six different times in the final nine minutes, but each time Gardner-Webb had an answer – sometimes on the defensive end, sometimes on the offensive end.

After Phlandrous Fleming drove for an acrobatic layup to cut Gardner-Webb’s lead to 72-71 with 1:55 remaining, Efianayi took the game over.

The Orlando, Fla., senior stepped into a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:33 left to push the lead to 75-71 and – after a three from Travis McConico with 7.7 seconds left – Efianayi stepped to the line and drained two free throws for the final margin.

Christian Keeling’s off balance trey near the horn was off the mark and bounced out of bounds to end the game.

Gardner-Webb had a choppy second half offensively, shooting just 42.1 percent, but made 11-of-14 from the free throw line and finished at 48.1 percent from the floor overall. That included an efficient 11-of-20 mark from deep (55.0 percent) – with Perez (3-for-6) and Efianayi (4-for-6) combining on seven of those makes in 12 chances.

Charleston Southern finished at 40.0 percent for the game, but made 14-of-33 from long range (42.4 percent) – keyed by a 5-of-7 effort from Keeling. The Augusta, Ga., standout scored 20 points off the bench Wednesday night.

McConico added 14 points, Ty Jones scored 11 and Fleming netted 11 off the bench.

Gardner-Webb held a 28-18 edge in the paint, but CSU turned 11 offensive rebounds into a 17-6 advantage in second-chance scoring. GWU also held a decisive edge in transition – primarily in a fast-paced first half. The ‘Dogs scored 17 points on the break, but only five in the second half as the pace was stymied.

Gardner-Webb will remain at home on Saturday, hosting Winthrop at 5:00 pm in the second half of a Big South doubleheader. The game is part of Hoopscoming 2019 in Paul Porter Arena, with alumni from all eras of men’s and women’s basketball invited to return to campus for special recognition.

Gardner-Webb will honor the 1968-1969 Runnin’ Bulldogs team – which featured Hall of Famers and future NBA performers George Adams and Artis Gilmore – on its 50th anniversary. That team, coached by Eddie Holbrook, advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament and went 31-5.

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