BOILING SPRINGS – Laquincy Rideau's three-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark and Furman escaped with a 68-65 win over Gardner-Webb Saturday afternoon at Paul Porter Arena.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (5-5) saw their three-game win streak snapped, but made a valiant rally to take the lead in the second half after trailing by as many as 15 points late in the first.
The game was tight early, with the two teams trading eight lead changes and four ties in the opening 10 minutes. Gardner-Webb tied the score at 15 on Liam O'Reilly's triple at the 10:13 mark, but the Paladins (6-4) took control from there.
Devin Sibley sank a three-pointer from the corner to ignite a 16-2 run, capping the spurt himself with a free throw at the 3:48 mark to give Furman a 31-17 lead.
GWU made a quick 5-0 burst to get back into single digits, but the Paladins rained down a pair of triples and a jumper to get the lead back to double figures – and held a 39-26 advantage at the break.
The lead extended back to 15 points – 45-30 – with 17:03 left in the game on a pair of Sibley free throws, but Gardner-Webb buckled down defensively and started to get some shots to fall from there.
The Runnin' Bulldogs responded with a 17-1 run to take the lead, doing so over a seven-minute stretch. Tyrell Nelson's layup with 10:17 left put Gardner-Webb over the hump.
Rideau stretched the lead to 50-46 with a layup and free throw with 9:08 left, but Furman would battle back.
Sibley sank a driving layup with 6:44 to go to put the Paladins back in front, 52-51, and the two teams traded baskets over the next three minutes – with Kris Acox tying the game at 59 on a layup with 3:38 remaining.
Acox took an assist from Sibley for a tight shot with 1:34 left to break that tie and – after a miss on the other end – Sibley drained two free throws with 1:10 left to make it a two possession game.
Gardner-Webb got the margin back to one point twice in the final minute, but Furman got a three-pointer late in the shot clock from Daniel Fowler with 31.4 seconds left and got two free throws from Matt Rafferty with 7.1 seconds left to make the score 68-65.
Rideau got free from the right wing after attempting a handoff to O'Reilly, but his shot to tie was just long off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Nelson led Gardner-Webb with 19 points, including a pair of three-pointers, and pulled down seven boards in just 21 minutes due to foul trouble. O'Reilly added a career-high 17 points on 5-of-9 effectiveness from long range – and Rideau added 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
The 'Dogs were stung by turnovers (17), which turned into 20 Furman points. Gardner-Webb shot 43.4 percent for the game (23-of-53), but made just 50 percent from the charity stripe (12-of-24).
Gardner-Webb also held a 45-30 edge on the backboards, but allowed a 13-4 edge in second-chance points to the Paladins.
Furman got 20 points from Sibley and 18 from Acox in the win. The Paladins shot 40.4 percent (23-of-57) from the floor, but just 29.6 percent in the second half as Gardner-Webb rallied (8-for-27).
Gardner-Webb will break for exams before returning to action to host Warren Wilson on Friday, December 16, at 7:00 pm.