BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Gardner-Webb is accustomed to finding its way toward a strong finish in Big South regular seasons. Despite a lot of youth and a tough opening schedule, the Runnin’ Bulldogs may be headed down that familiar path in the 2020-21 campaign.
Gardner-Webb placed three scorers in double figures – including career-high and season-high outputs, respectively, from a pair of them – in recording a 74-62 victory over Charleston Southern in the opening game of a Big South Conference series in Paul Porter Arena. The win marked the first back-to-back victories on the season for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
“That was a good win for our team,” said Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft. “I thought in the first half, we played terrific. We really defended them in the first half. In the second half, we weren’t as sharp. (We were) a little sloppy, I thought, in the second half.”
Gardner-Webb (5-9, 4-5) got off to a sizzling start, with two Jaheam Cornwall triples and a Jordan Sears connection from deep propelling the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a 12-3 lead and compelling an early timeout from Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh. The visiting Bucs responded by scoring 10 of the game’s next 15 points before the ‘Dogs countered.
Radebaugh requested a second stoppage following a feed from Jordan Sears to Kareem Reid that escalated the home side’s advantage to 15 at 38-23. Gardner-Webb fended off CSU out of that respite, taking a 44-26 margin to the interval.
Charleston Southern (1-12, 0-9) made a charge midway through the second period on the strength of their defense, with a steal and runout dunk from JaQuavian Florence slicing the GWU lead to 11 and energizing the CSU bench. That excitement was short-lived, however, as Gardner-Webb unleashed a 12-3 burst to extend its lead to 20.
“When they cut it to 11 (at 53-42), we had a great run there to get it back,” Craft. “I think it was a 12-3 four-minute war that got it back to 20. That was a great response by those guys that were in there at that time.”
Phlandrous Fleming paced the Bucs and all scorers, pouring in 32 for the visitors. Fleming knocked down 10-of-18 from the field and 9-of-10 from the line, finishing one point shy of his season-high 33 notched in a two-point loss to Winthrop nearly three weeks prior. The Bucs hit 38.2 percent (21-for-55) from the floor, with 44.4 percent (12-for-27) of their second-half tries finding the net.
“(The plan was) just to try to make it hard on him. He had 32 tonight, so I don’t know that we did a great job,” said Craft of the philosophy in slowing Fleming. “(We wanted to) try to make him make tough shots, not give him anything easy, and try to make contested jumpers.
“He’s obviously a really good player.”
D’Maurian Williams notched a career-high for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, scoring 21 on 7-for-13 shooting. Jordan Sears added 16, while Kareem Reid equaled a season-high in piecing together a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double. The Runnin’ Bulldogs shot 46 percent from the floor, dropping 13-of-32 (41 percent) from distance. The win gave Gardner-Webb its first game one decision of a Big South series for the campaign.
“My teammates just did a good job of finding me, and I got hot early. I just kept on rolling with it,” commented Williams. The freshman tallied in double figures for the sixth time in the last seven games.
“I’m just catching up to the pace of the game,” added Williams. “Coming in from high school, it’s different. Everything’s faster. I feel like I’m just catching up to the pace of it and getting used to things.”
The sides square off again Monday afternoon to close the series. Tip time inside Paul Porter Arena is set for 4:00 (Eastern), and the game will be streamed via ESPN+.