Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft focuses on his team Saturday evening.  (Brian Wilmer/College Hoops Digest)

CLINTON, S.C. – There had to be a feeling lingering in the Gardner-Webb huddle that the Runnin’ Bulldogs just couldn’t manage to put away Presbyterian.  After all, the visitors’ lead was just seven at the half, and had extended no further halfway through the closing stanza.

The ‘Dogs found the gas pedal just in time, though.

Five Gardner-Webb players finished in double figures, as a demonstrative, late-game run helped the Runnin’ Bulldogs surge past the Blue Hose, 84-56, at the Templeton Center Saturday night.

On an evening on which the home club honored its three seniors before the game, one of those seniors almost singlehandedly kept his club nearly level with the visitors in the first half.  Gardner-Webb (16-13, 9-7 Big South) jumped out to a 7-0 lead, before Will Adams drained a try from distance to put the Blue Hose on the board.

That bucket keyed the Hose, as Presbyterian (5-22, 1-15) continued to go toe-to-toe with Gardner-Webb as the half unfolded.  The margin decreased to just two points on an Ed Drew free throw, before the Runnin’ Bulldogs unleashed a 12-3 run to briefly pull away.  Presbyterian fought back, however, knifing the visitors’ lead to just seven at the half.  Adams paced his club with 14 points in the opening twenty.

The comfort level was slow to increase for the ‘Dogs as the clock slowly dripped away, however.  The Gardner-Webb lead hovered in the single digits, and as the club looked up at the scoreboard during the second media timeout of the half, its 51-44 advantage loomed literally overhead.

What a difference a few minutes can make.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs forced four turnovers during the stretch from that media break to the next, helping key a 13-3 surge that stretched the lead to 17 and served to largely put the game – finally – out of reach.  The lead continued to swell from there, though, with the Runnin’ Bulldogs closing the game on a 33-12 surge after that seemingly pivotal media break.

Gardner-Webb forced 13 second-half turnovers, scoring 16 of its 45 second-half points off those possession changes.  The Runnin’ Bulldogs also held Presbyterian to 9-of-23 shooting in the closing period, not allowing a conversion from beyond the arc (0-for-4).

Guard David Efianayi paced Gardner-Webb’s five double-digit scorers, finishing with 15 points in 33 minutes of action.  Sophomore guard LaQuincy Rideau again filled the stat sheet, scoring 13 points to go with eight boards and four assists.  Jamaal Robateau contributed 12, while Tyrell Nelson and Liam O’Reilly went for 10 apiece.

Adams’ 21 marked the only Blue Hose scorer to finish in double figures.  The senior connected on 7-of-13 tries from the field, including 4-of-6 from distance.

Both teams return to Big South action Thursday night.  Gardner-Webb, who is now in sole possession of fourth place and has clinched a first-round tournament bye following High Point’s loss at Charleston Southern Saturday evening, faces league-leading UNC Asheville in a 9:00 (Eastern) tip.  That game will be the final Big South wildcard matchup to appear on ESPNU this season.  Presbyterian travels to the Dedmon Center in Radford, Va. to take on Radford.  Tip time for the Blue Hose and Highlanders is set for 7:00.


GARDNER-WEBB (16-13, 9-7 BIG SOUTH): Robateau 4-8 2-2 12, Rideau 5-9 3-8 13, Efianayi 4-10 6-8 15, Nelson 4-10 2-2 10, Niangane 2-2 1-2 5, Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0, Jamison 2-2 0-0 5, O’Reilly 3-6 1-2 10, Miller 1-2 0-0 2, Zeck 1-1 3-3 5, Laster 2-5 2-2 7. Totals 28-55 20-31 84.

PRESBYTERIAN (5-22, 1-15): Moore 1-3 3-4 5, Tete 2-3 0-0 4, Dillard 3-6 1-2 7, Adams 7-13 3-3 21, Drew 2-6 3-4 7, Withers 0-3 1-2 1, Osu 1-1 0-0 2, Inclan 0-1 0-0 0, Arroyo 0-2 0-0 0, Younger 1-4 2-2 4, Venable 2-4 1-5. Totals 19-46 14-24 56.

Halftime — Gardner-Webb 39-32. 3-Point Goals—Gardner-Webb 8-19 (Robateau 2-4, Rideau 0-1, Efianayi 1-4, Jamison 1-1, O’Reilly 3-6, Laster 1-3), Presbyterian 4-10 (Adams 4-6, Drew 0-1, Withers 0-1, Inclan 0-1, Younger 0-1). Fouled Out — Drew (PC), Dillard (PC). Rebounds — Gardner-Webb 36 (Rideau 8), Presbyterian 29 (Tete 6). Assists — Gardner-Webb 13 (Rideau/Efianayi 4), Presbyterian 4 (Dillard 2). Total Fouls — Gardner-Webb 23, Presbyterian 21. Technical — None. A — NA.

Points in the Paint — Gardner-Webb 36, Presbyterian 22. Points off Turnovers — Gardner-Webb 30, Presbyterian 8. Second-Chance Points — Gardner-Webb 9, Presbyterian 9. Fast Break Points — Gardner-Webb 2, Presbyterian 2. Bench Points — Gardner-Webb 29, Presbyterian 12.