RADFORD, Va. – A furious comeback effort by Gardner-Webb fell short as the Runnin' Bulldogs dropped the Big South Conference opener Tuesday night at Radford by a final score of 67-57.
Gardner-Webb (5-7, 0-1 Big South) trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half, yet would fight back to pull within three points with just over four minutes remaining. Radford (9-3, 1-0 Big South) would prove to be too much for the Runnin' Bulldogs to handle in the final minutes, pulling away in the final minutes for the 67-57 win.
Alexus Hill scored a season-high 16 points to lead GWU in scoring, going 7-for-8 from the floor. The junior guard also added four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Tierra Huntsman would also reach double-figures, scoring 10 points after connecting three times from behing the three-point arc.
Radford was led offensively by Jayda Worthy with 20 points, while both Janayla White and Destinee Walker pulled down seven rebounds to lead the squad.
Gardner-Webb was held to 42.3 percent from the floor while Radford shot at a 49.1 percent clip.
The Runnin' Bulldogs jumped out to an early 4-2 lead on a pair of baskets from Carley Plentovich. Radford would respond with a 5-0 spurt before Plentovich would knock down a shot from long range to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:48 on the clock. The two teams would trade baskets for the next few minutes, with Gardner-Webb holding a 12-11 lead with 1:29 to go following a successful free-throw from Huntsman, but the Highlanders would then score eight unanswered points to close out the opening period with a lead of 19-12.
Hill would score the first points of the second period, knocking down a jumper with 8:54 on the clock, but Radford would go on to push its lead to 16 points after a 13-4 run. Gardner-Webb broke the run two quick baskets, a layup from Ky'Asia Stanford with 1:37 to go and a layup from Savannah Plentovich with 1:25 to go to pull within 12 points at 32-20. Radford would score on its next possession, but the Runnin' Bulldogs would immediately respond with a three-pointer from Huntsman to set the score at 34-23, which would end up being the score at halftime.
Radford opened the third period with a six unanswered points to push its lead to 17 points at 40-23, with 8:42 on the clock. Gardner-Webb got on the board for the first time in the frame with 8:18 to go after a three-pointer from Morgan Pointer, but the Highlanders would continue to expand their lead to as much as 19 points with 4:42 remaining in the quarter. The Runnin' Bulldogs would then knock down two consecutive three-pointers as Hill and Kiera Currie would connect from long distance to pull within 13 points with 3:02 to go, and GWU would trail by that margin at the end of the period, 53-40.
GWU would open the fourth period with a 5-0 run to trim the deficit to single digits at 53-45 after a three-pointer from Huntsman with 8:30 on the clock. Radford would lead again by 10 points with 6:25 remaining, yet the Runnin' Bulldogs would continue to fight back with a 7-0 run to pull within three points, 57-54, with 4:09 to go after a mid-range jumper from Hill. GWU would not be able to pull any closer as Radford would respond with a 6-1 run to lead by eight points with 1:18 to go and would go on to take the contest by a final margin of ten points, 67-57.
Gardner-Webb returns home for its next contest, hosting Presbyterian College on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm. Live video of the contest can be found on the Big South Network (www.bigsouthsports.com).