ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Jerome Hill's follow shot with 22 seconds left gave Gardner-Webb the lead for good as the Runnin' Bulldogs rallied past Big South-leader UNC Asheville 67-65 Wednesday night at Kimmel Arena.
Gardner-Webb (15-1, 7-5 BSC) trailed by 19 points in the first half but roared back in the second half to end the Bulldogs (15-11, 9-3 BSC) seven-game winning streak. GWU swept the season series from Asheville for the first time since it joined the Big South five years ago.
The Bulldogs were led by Keith Hornsby's 22 points. Jeremy Atkinson added 15 points.
Donta Harper added 16 points and nine rebounds. Hill added 15 points. Tyler Strange finished with 12 points and five assists. Kevin Hartley contributed 10 points. Gardner-Webb has won five of its last six games and picked up road wins over the South Division co-leaders in Charleston Southern and Asheville.
Hill put GWU in front 65-63 with 22 seconds as he rebounded a Tashan Newsome miss. Asheville came down and tried to tie the game as Trent Meyer's 10-footer rimmed out with 6.9 seconds left. Meyer missed the first free throw but made the second shot to cut the lead to 65-64.
Harper was fouled with 3.9 seconds left and made both free throws to pad the lead to 67-64. The Bulldogs came down and called timeout with two seconds left. On the inbounds pass, Meyer was fouled going up for a three-point shot with 1.5 seconds remaining.
The junior guard missed the first one, made the second to cut the lead to 67-65. He missed the third shot intentionally. D.J. Cunningham rebounded the missed free throw but his follow shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded giving the Runnin' Bulldogs the win.
Gardner-Webb outhustled and outfought Asheville in the second half. The Bulldogs led 34-24 at halftime but the visitors out-rebounded the home team, 22-10 in the second half. GWU had 16 second-chance points in the second half to just one for the Bulldogs. Harper had 14 points and eight rebounds in the second half to lead the comeback.
Asheville dominated the first 11 minutes of the game as it sprinted out to a 27-8 lead at the 9:08 mark of the opening half. The Bulldogs scored 13 straight points to build their biggest lead of the night.
But slowly Gardner-Webb began to rally. The Runnin' Bulldogs outscored the home team 16-7 in the final nine minutes to close to 34-24 at halftime. Hill had six points in the run.
The visitors kept the comeback coming in the second half as Gardner-Webb consistently got second and third shots. They finally tied the game at 54-54 with seven minutes left on Strange's long three-pointer.
The game stayed close the rest of the way. Kevin Hartley's trey with two minutes left gave GWU the lead for the first time in the game at 63-62.
A free throw from Corey Littlejohn tied the game at 63-63. Both teams missed chances to take the lead before Gardner-Webb had the ball with 50 seconds left. Newsome, who was held to two points in the game, missed a jumper but Hill got the rebound and scored, setting up the final and frantic last seconds.
Asheville shot .512 (21-of-41) from the field. Gardner-Webb out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 37-30 and held a 23-6 advantage in second-chance points. The visitors had 19 offensive rebounds to just five for the Bulldogs.
Hornsby scored at least 20 points for the third straight game. He went 4-for-4 from the free throw line and has now hit 23 straight free throws. The loss snapped a 12-game winning streak for the Bulldogs against Big South Conference opponents.
UNC Asheville is back at home Saturday afternoon in a South Division showdown for first place with Charleston Southern at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs are 9-3 in league play, while the Buccaneers are 8-3. The game will be broadcast by ESPN3.
Gardner-Webb will hope to continue its road magic when it travels to Coastal Carolina Saturday evening at 7 p.m.