The Gardner-Webb men's basketball team erased a 17-point deficit in the second half to score an 86-82 overtime victory over Morehead State on Friday afternoon (Nov. 29) at Orleans Arena.
The Big South Conference Runnin' Bulldogs improve to 4-4 overall, while the Ohio Valley Conference Eagles slip to 6-3 on the season. At 6-2, MSU was off to its best start since the 1983-84 campaign. The tilt was part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, which also included UCLA, Missouri, Northwestern, Nevada, IUPUI and Chattanooga. MSU finishes its 10-day West Coast swing 2-2.
Gardner-Webb knocked down 59 percent (16-of-27) from the floor and 88 percent (29-of-33) from the free-throw line after intermission. GWU scored 49 points in the second half and 16 in extra time.
"I'm not one to make excuses, but this has been a very long road trip and we just ran out of gas," Head Coach Sean Woods said. "We had a big lead early in the second half and just couldn't finish the game. Our problems down the stretch were both mental and physical."
Senior Naji Hibbert tallied a game-high 23 points for GWU, while sophomore Isaiah Ivey posted all 17 of his points in the second half. Freshman Tyrell Nelson added 15 points and 11 rebounds, while senior Josh Castellanos drilled 11-of-12 from the free-throw stripe.
Morehead State closed the first half on a 22-6 run and held a 34-21 halftime advantage. The Eagles pushed their lead to 17 with 17:26 remaining in the second period, but Gardner-Webb responded with a 20-6 spurt moments later to take the lead back with 4:21 to play.
A three by junior Angelo Warner gave the Eagles a five-point cushion with 1:23 on the second-half clock, but the Runnin' Bulldogs answered with a 5-0 run in less than a minute to force overtime. Gardner-Webb drilled 14-of-17 from the charity stripe in extra time, while Morehead State made just 4-of-6. The Eagles were also held to 3-of-12 from the floor over the game's last five minutes.
"You certainly have to give Gardner-Webb credit," Woods said. "They battled with us on the boards, took pretty good care of the ball and made several free throws down the stretch. When you put those three factors together, you have a pretty good chance to get a win."
Warner paced Morehead State with 22 points on 8-of-16 from the field, which marked his fourth 20-point performance this season. He also registered eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Sophomore Brent Arrington contributed 17 points for the Eagles, while juniors Kareem Storey (14) and Billy Reader (12) rounded out the double-figure scorers. Senior Chad Posthumus snagged a game-best 13 rebounds, which was his sixth effort of 10+ this year.
Morehead State hit 50 percent (29-of-58) from the field and managed a 48-24 scoring advantage in the paint, but committed 21 turnovers. The Eagles, who have not been outrebounded in nine contests this season, also posted a 36-33 advantage on the glass.
Gardner-Webb drilled 42 percent (23-of-55) from the floor and overcame just 25 percent (7-of-28) in the first half. Morehead State was whistled for 32 fouls and had two players foul out. The Eagles also committed 21 turnovers.
"We weren't as aggressive down the stretch because of our foul trouble," Woods said. "I was disappointed because we committed several unnecessary fouls and had too many unforced turnovers. Those are both areas we need to tighten up moving forward."
MSU returns to Johnson Arena on Monday (Dec. 2) for its first home game since Nov. 17. The Eagles will entertain Horizon League opponent Wright State at 7 p.m. The game will be webcast by the OVC Digital Network and broadcast by the Eagle Sports Network.
"I will be eager to see how we respond to this adversity," Woods added. "Are we going to let this performance lead to future losses? Or, are we going to learn from this and be hungry for more wins? Wright State is a quality team, and we will have to be ready."