WINSTON-SALEM (AP) — David Efianayi scored 15 points, Jose Perez added 14, and Gardner-Webb beat Wake Forest 73-69 on Saturday.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs (10-5) took control of what had been a close game with a 19-2 run in the middle of the second half. D.J. Laster scored eight of his 12 points during that span of 7:42, which saw the visitors turn a 5-point deficit into a 54-42 lead.
“That was a big stretch for us,” Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft said. “I’m proud of our guys, to come in on the road and win a game like that when we’re not playing particularly good offensively. It was good to see us grind out what was kind of a defensive struggle.”
A late flurry from the Demon Deacons, who struggled offensively all day, was not enough. A trio of free throws from Brandon Childress got the hosts back within 72-69 with 7.6 seconds left.
But Gardner-Webb’s sterling performance at the foul line, where they made 35 of 40 attempts (88 percent), derailed any hopes the Deacons held for a late comeback.
“There are a lot of different areas we didn’t do well in,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. “We’ve got to continue to work.”
For Wake Forest (6-5), Childress scored 18 and Chaundee Brown, Torry Johnson and Jaylen Hoard each added 12 points. Hoard, the team’s freshman star, fouled out as Gardner-Webb’s decisive run was nearing its end with 4:49 to play.
“If you want me to say I’m pretty upset, yeah, I’m pretty upset we lost to Gardner-Webb,” Childress said. “Yes, I’m disappointed at how I played, and how we were selfish at times.”
There were 55 fouls, 77 free throw attempts, 74 rebounds and 35 turnovers in the game.
“Kind of an ugly game — a defensive kind of rock fight,” Craft said. “That’s what it was. Physical. A lot of fouls. Just a really rough and gritty game where neither team could really score.”
Gardner-Webb: The visitors extended their winning streak to eight. That includes a pair of road wins against Atlantic Coast Conference foes, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs knocked off Georgia Tech 79-69 on Dec. 17. They should be a contender in the Big South Conference.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons hardly entered the season with lofty expectations, as they were picked to finish 14th in the 15-team ACC. But even that might be tough to manage. They dropped their second home game to an opponent from outside the power conferences, having previously lost 93-91 in overtime to Houston Baptist on Nov. 23.
NO CAROLINA CROWN
Wake Forest lost for the first time in its last 20 games against non-conference opponents from North Carolina. Manning had previously been 10-0 in such games at Wake Forest. Four of the Deacons’ six wins this season came against in-state opposition (North Carolina A&T, Western Carolina, Charlotte, and Davidson).
BIG SOUTH, BIG PROBLEMS
The Demon Deacons lost to a Big South opponent for the second consecutive time. They fell to Liberty 79-66 last season.
THEY SAID IT
Wake Forest’s Childress: “We’ve got to put 40 minutes together. When teams go on runs, we can’t put our heads down. We can’t get upset. We’ve got to keep moving forward. These next couple practices, coaches are going to be on us. I’m going to be on everybody. We’ve got to take accountability. And we’re going to get better. It’s as simple as that.”
Manning, on whether he needed to encourage or rip his struggling team: “A little bit of both. You’re going to have some aggressive counseling, so to speak. You’re going to have some encouragement along the way. . A lot of it is team-based, and a lot is individual-based. You’ll have kids who hear the message differently with the way it’s delivered.”