Site: Boiling Springs, N.C. (Paul Porter Arena)
Score: High Point 72, Gardner-Webb 69
Records: High Point (6-9), 4-6 Big South, Gardner Webb (6-11), 5-7 Big South
Next HPU Event: Sunday, February 7th vs. Hampton (Convocation Center), 6:00 PM
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. — The High Point University Men’s basketball team picked up its first two-game Big South Conference sweep of the season. The Panthers won 72-69 over Gardner-Webb behind a big second-half comeback. John-Michael Wright finished with 28 points, he scored 25 of them in the second half. Three Panthers ended the night in double digits, Lydell Elmore scored 13 points in the win and brought down four rebounds. Alex Holt was the third Panther in double figures as he had 11 points and brought in a team leading six rebounds.
“It was a good team effort, Coach Tubby Smith said. “John-Michael was outstanding in the second half he went nine for ten. When he is playing like that we are tough to beat. Our rebounding these last two games has been outstanding. We settled down in the second half and did a much better job defensively even though they shot 56%. I like our guys, their mental toughness is getting better right now, what we lack physically we are making up for with hustle and hard work.”
The two sides picked up where they had left off the night before as the opening ten minutes were a back and forth affair. In the first ten minutes of the half, neither team got out to a lead larger than three. With 9:19 left to play in the first half a pair of Bryant Randleman free throws tied the game at 20. The Runnin’ Bulldogs then went on a 5-0 run. Flowers hit two free throws to bring the Gardner-Webb deficit down to two with 4:45 left to play in the first. Gardner Webb pushed the lead out to seven with a minute to go until the half. Elmore scored a layup just before the end of the half to make it 31-26.
Gardner-Webb went 3-3 to start the second half and pushed their lead to 11. With 17:38 left to play Wright’s scoring explosion started as he hit a three to make it an eight-point game. Wright quickly scored two more baskets and suddenly it was a six-point game with 14:15. Caden Sanchez had a momentum-shifting shot for HPU with 13:37 left to play as Sanchez’s three-pointer bounced off of the back of the rim, skied straight up above the shot clock, and fell straight down through the net for three (44-40). On the following possession, Ahmil Flowers stole the ball away and found Wright who made it a two-point game with a jumper (44-42). With 9:48 left Gardner-Webb pushed their lead out to five but Wright and The Panthers did not let them get away with the game.
The Panthers continued to find ways to the free-throw line. The Panthers took 16 free throws in the second half compared to Gardner-Webb’s four. With GWU’s lead at four, JMW hit a huge three at the top of the key to make it a one-point game with 7:24 to play. HPU took their first lead of the second half as Elmore laid in a basket to give The Purple and White a 57-56 lead with 6:31 to play. Holt and Wright had to make buckets on consecutive possessions which gave HPU a six-point lead with less than five to go. Two big shots sealed it for HPU, Wright came down to hit a jumper in an answer to a Gardner-Webb three pointer which pushed the Panther lead out to four. With less than a minute to go Gardner-Webb had made it a two-point game again. With 36 seconds left Holt scored and gave the Panthers a four-point lead. The made basket capped a tremendous weekend for the freshman. The Panthers held on to win.
The win over GWU marks The Panthers’ first Big South Conference series sweep of the season. High Point has won three out of its last four games.
UP NEXT: The Panthers carry this momentum into next weekend as they will be on the road again to face Hampton (7-8, 6-4).