For the second time this season, Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb went to overtime to decide a key Big South Conference matchup. And, for the second time this season, Gardner-Webb proved to be the better team down the stretch.
Gardner-Webb, down by three points with a minute to play in regulation, tied the game on a Tyler Strange 3-pointer, then outscored the Buccaneers, 9-5 in overtime, to win, 67-62.
Gardner-Webb (19-11, 10-5 Big South) holds out hope of winning the South Division of the Big South. CSU (16-11, 11-4) can clinch the South Division crown with a win over Coastal Carolina at home on Saturday. A CSU loss and a Gardner-Webb win on Saturday would give the Bulldogs the South Division title.
Charleston Southern got a bit of good news when North Division leader High Point lost to Radford on Wednesday. That scenario leaves CSU and High Point tied with 11-4 conference records for the overall Big South title. CSU can now win the outright title with a win over Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The overall conference champion receives an automatic bid to the NIT if they don’t win the conference tournament.
“They hit a fadeaway 3 with 41 seconds to go and it was a big, clutch shot,” CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh said. “I commend our guys for their effort. We outrebounded them, and we held them to 41 percent shooting. We had a few too many turnovers (17) but we were right there. We had a chance to win a big game, on the road, with less than a minute to play. We just came up a little short.”
Sophomore guard Saah Nimley returned to action after missing the last two games with an injury and led CSU in scoring with 15 points. Paul Gombwer had 14 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, while Arlon Harper had 11 points.
An 11-0 run midway through the first half gave CSU a 21-12 lead and the Bucs held on late for a 34-30 halftime lead. The Buccaneers shot 53 percent from the field in the first half but went cold in the final 20 minutes, shooting 43 percent for the game.
The game was back-and-forth throughout the second-half. Nimley gave CSU a 57-54 lead with a minute remaining but Strange drained a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Tied at 59, Gardner-Webb’s Kevin Hartley (21 points) hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night for a 62-59 lead and the Bulldogs would not trail again.
“We have to let this one go because we have everything to play for on Saturday,” said Radebaugh. “I’ll be very surprised if our place isn’t packed out on Saturday. We don’t get to compete for conference championships on our own floor very often. This is a great opportunity for our team and for our two seniors (Jeremy Sexton and Mathiang Muo).”