BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Not many college teams get to lay claim to going undefeated at home in a season – fewer than 15 among the 350-plus Division I teams can make that statement this year – but Gardner-Webb is among those select few.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs got 39 combined points from seniors DJ Laster and David Efianayi on Senior Day and closed both halves on extended runs, putting away Longwood, 66-47, before an announced crowd of 1,590 at Paul Porter Arena. The victory gave Gardner-Webb a 13-0 home record, its 14th consecutive home win, and victories in 25 of their last 27 home games.

“(I’m) proud of our guys for playing two halves and just closing one out without it getting tight, which has never happened all year in the league,” said Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft. “I’m proud of our three seniors, (forward) Brandon (Miller), and David and DJ, and just all of the things that they’ve meant to our program. Obviously, it’s special to send them out with a win.”

Longwood (15-16, 5-11 Big South) led for much of the first 13 minutes of the game, stretching the margin as far as six points on two separate occasions. The Runnin’ Bulldogs drew a foul on Longwood’s Damarion Geter at the 6:23 mark of the half, sending Laster to the line. The senior from Pensacola, Fla., knocked down both free throws, and the Runnin’ Bulldogs put their foot on the accelerator. Gardner-Webb (20-11, 10-6) closed the half on a 17-1 run, enabling the home side to take a 33-21 advantage to the locker room.

“The first half, I think we were able to get some stops, and kind of get out in transition a little bit,” said Craft of the burst nearing the horn. Gardner-Webb limited Longwood to 8-for-30 from the field in the half (26.7 percent), and just 2-for-14 (14.3 percent) from distance. The Lancers did not knock down a field goal in the final 6:47 of the half, missing their final 11 shots.

“Laster dominated us. He had 17 in the first half, and I thought they just got easy baskets,” said Longwood coach Griff Aldrich. “(Post players) Spencer Franklin and (Damarion) Geter got in foul trouble, and then we ended up with guys who don’t play as much, and I thought that impacted us.”

The Lancers went on a 6-0 burst to start the second stanza, narrowing the margin from 14 to eight. Gardner-Webb returned the punch, as a 5-0 spurt returned the lead to 13. Longwood then went on an 8-2 run, with a Jordan Cintron free throw slicing the score to 44-37. The visitors were never able to draw any closer, however, as Gardner-Webb kept the Lancers at arm’s length. The Runnin’ Bulldogs ended the game on an 11-2 run.

“I think we’re still a team that, if our offense isn’t clicking, sometimes our defensive intensity drops. It actually has to be the other way around,” said Aldrich. “I think it was a combination of us not scoring – credit Gardner-Webb – but then them also getting a bunch of easy looks.” Gardner-Webb connected on 40.7 percent (11-of-27) of its second-half tries, while Longwood hit on just 7-of-24 (29.2 percent).

Junior Jaylon Wilson paced the Lancers, scoring 16 points on 6-for-16 from the floor. Aldrich spoke kindly of his leading scorer after the game.

“(Jaylon) works so hard to try to please us. I’m tickled for him to see the success that he’s had. You like to see good things happen to good people,” said Aldrich. “He’s coming into his own. He’s been a weapon that we’ve certainly needed.”

Forward Jordan Cintron added 14 on 4-for-8 shooting. The Lancers, however, connected on just 3-of-22 three-point tries.

“They’ve got a group that shoots a lot of threes, and are certainly capable,” said Craft. “That was important, to guard the arc here in this game … I thought we did a nice job of that. When they got in (the paint) and started to search and look, and we got back to our guy. We didn’t give up a lot of wide-open ones.”

Laster led all scorers with 21 for Gardner-Webb on 8-for-11 shooting, while adding eight rebounds to his tally. Efianayi notched 18, while Jose Perez (10 points, 11 rebounds) contributed his second-straight double-double.

Gardner-Webb recorded its first 20-win regular season under Craft, and only the second in the school’s Division I history.

“To get 20 heading into the conference tournament, with the schedule that we play and all the road games, that’s a great accomplishment,” said Craft. “I feel good about the way we’re playing. I think our guys are confident.”

Both schools advance to the Big South Championships, which begin Tuesday. Longwood qualified as the ninth seed, and will travel to eighth-seeded Hampton for a first-round contest Tuesday evening. That game is slated to tip at 7:00 (Eastern) from Hampton’s Convocation Center. Gardner-Webb earned a first-round bye, by virtue of its top-five league finish. The fourth-seeded Runnin’ Bulldogs will face off with fifth-seeded High Point in Campbell University’s Gore Arena Thursday night, in the nightcap of quarterfinals action. That game is slated to tip around 8:00.


LONGWOOD (15-16, 5-11 BIG SOUTH): Franklin 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Geter 1-5 0-0 4, Phillips 2-9 3-4 7, Wilson 6-16 3-4 16, Chapman 0-0 0-0 0, Adgei 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Flood 0-2 1-2 1, Lipp 0-0 0-0 0, Cintron 4-8 5-11 14, Okafor 0-3 2-3 2, Munoz 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 15-54 14-24 47.

GARDNER-WEBB (20-11, 10-6 BIG SOUTH): Miller 1-1 0-0 2, Laster 8-11 3-6 21, Cornwall 3-4 0-2 7, Johnson 2-5 0-0 5, Efianayi 5-14 7-10 18, Jamison 1-3 0-0 2, Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0, Turner 0-0 1-2 1, Perez 3-11 3-6 10. Totals 23-49 14-24 66.

Halftime — Gardner-Webb 33-21. 3-Point Goals—Longwood 3-22 (Smith 0-2, Geter 0-2, Phillips 0-6, Wilson 1-5, Flood 0-1, Cintron 1-2, Okafor 0-1, Munoz 0-3), Gardner-Webb 6-20 (Laster 2-3, Cornwall 1-2, Johnson 1-3, Efianayi 1-7, Perez 1-5). Fouled Out — NA. Rebounds — Gardner-Webb 43 (Perez 11), Longwood 33 (Phillips 6). Assists —Gardner-Webb 15 (Cornwall 7), Longwood 6 (Wilson/Phillips 2). Total Fouls — Longwood 19, Gardner-Webb 15. Technical — Team (LU). A —1590.

Points in the Paint —Gardner-Webb 34, Longwood 22. Points off Turnovers —Longwood 15, Gardner-Webb 7. Second-Chance Points — Longwood 4, Gardner-Webb 2. Fast Break Points — Gardner-Webb 14, Longwood 0. Bench Points — Longwood 17, Gardner-Webb 13.


First Round – Tuesday, March 5 – ESPN3

Game 1: #10 UNC Asheville at #7 Presbyterian, 7:00pm
Game 2: #11 USC Upstate at #6 Charleston Southern, 7:00pm
Game 3: #9 Longwood at #8 Hampton, 7:00pm

Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 7 – ESPN3

Game 3: #2 Radford vs. #7/10 winner, 12:00pm
Game 4: #3 Winthrop vs. #6/11 winner, 2:00pm
Game 5: #1 Campbell vs. #8/9 winner, 6:00pm
Game 6: #4 Gardner-Webb vs. #5 High Point, 8:00pm

Semifinals – Friday, March 8 – ESPN+

Game 7:  Semifinals – Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6:00pm
Game 8:  Semifinals – Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 8:00pm

Championship – Sunday, March 10 – ESPN

Game 9:  Championship – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1:00pm