Max Landis scored a career-high 20 points and Kevin Hartley added 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead Gardner-Webb to a 71-59 upset win over DePaul at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont during action in the first round of the Cancun Challenge on Thursday night.
Gardner-Webb (2-2) got its first win against a Big East school, albeit against DePaul, which has managed to win just five conference games in the past four seasons.
Gardner-Webb blew open a close game after halftime. Cleveland Melvin's basket got the Blue Demons (1-1) within 41-33 early in the second half, but the Runnin' Bulldogs answered with a 12-4 run to get the lead up to 16. Landis hit a 3-pointer and Donta Harper finished a missed layup with a dunk to put Gardner-Webb up 53-37 with 12:58 left.
Harper finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds for Gardner-Webb. Melvin had 18 points and Brandon Young added 10 for DePaul.
Gardner-Webb will play at Iowa in the second round of the Cancun Challenge, then head to Cancun to play the rest of the tournament. DePaul hosts Austin Peay on Saturday.
Gardner-Webb, a member of the Big South Conference, was 10-20 last season and pulled off the upset despite returning starter Tashan Newsome, a second-team all-conference selection, being out with a back injury.
Despite playing a back-to-back, Gardner-Webb jumped out to an early lead. Hartley had a 3-point play to put the Runnin' Bulldogs up 21-14 midway through the first half. Trying to send a message, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell pulled his starters, going as far as playing freshman walk-on Peter Ryckbosch.
Corey Hensley put Gardner-Webb up 29-18 with 3:32 left in the first half on a pair of free throws, and Landis made a jumper with two seconds left for a 34-24 halftime lead.
The Runnin' Bulldogs held DePaul to 39 percent shooting in the first half, including 0 of 9 from 3-point range. Harper and Hartley each had nine points in the first half.