LYNCHBURG, Va. – Gardner-Webb will head back to Virginia on Thursday night, traveling to face first-place Liberty at 7:00 pm in the Vines Center.
Thursday's game will stream live on ESPN3 (WatchESPN.com) and will simulcast live on MASN (DirecTV 640 / Dish Network 432).
The Runnin' Bulldogs (10-9, 3-3 Big South) are locked in a four-way tie for fourth place currently – sitting even with Campbell, Radford and Longwood in the Big South standings. That quartet is two games back of the first-place trio of Winthrop, UNC Asheville and Liberty (10-9, 5-1 Big South) as the circuit nears its midway point.
Gardner-Webb built a comfortable 16-point lead early in the second half at Longwood on Saturday – with Jamaal Robateau leading the way – but had to weather a frantic rally by the Lancers before holding on for an 85-79 victory in Willett Hall.
The Runnin' Bulldogs have scored well on the road in league play so far (80.0 ppg), but will face the Big South's stiffest defensive group on Thursday night – as the Flames are allowing less than 60 ppg their last two outings and lead the league in scoring defense overall.
Gardner-Webb's scoring has been balanced for the most part this season, with Laquincy Rideau (13.3 ppg), Tyrell Nelson (13.1 ppg), David Efianayi (12.1 ppg) and Robateau (10.1 ppg) sharing the load. Efianayi came off the bench for the season's first 18 games, scoring well in that role. The redshirt sophomore started at Longwood and finished with five points as Rideau, Nelson and Robateau carried the Runnin' Bulldogs offensively that afternoon.
The Flames have relied heavily on wing Ryan Kemrite (13.6 ppg) since standout Caleb Homesley (12.9 ppg) went down with an injury in the 10th game of the season. All-Big South guard John Dawson (9.2 ppg) is capable of putting up big numbers on the offensive end and Lovell Cabbil (8.6 ppg) has been joined by Gabe Pacheco-Ortiz (6.8 ppg) in the backcourt to form a solid passing tandem – as that duo ranks just behind Dawson in assists so far this season.
Liberty shoots the basketball well from deep (172-of-467, 36.8%) and puts more attempts in the air than anyone else in the Big South. Defensively, teams shoot just 43.2 percent against the Flames are scoring at a sluggish 64.8 points per game against McKay's unit defensively.
Gardner-Webb will be playing in a venue that has generally been unkind to the 'Dogs since they joined the Big South. GWU is 1-5 in the building, with the lone win coming in an 68-52 romp on February 11, 2014 – coach Tim Craft's first season at the helm.
Liberty won each meeting last season, holding on for an 86-81 win in the regular season finale for both squads (February 27).