HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team (22-8, 13-5) opens the Big South Tournament Friday looking to accomplish its season-long goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The Panthers are the No. 2 seed in the tournament and earned a bye into the event’s quarterfinals. HPU takes on seventh-seeded Gardner-Webb (19-13, 10-8) Friday at 6 p.m. The Runnin’ Bulldogs knocked off No. 10 seed Campbell on Wednesday to advance in first round action.
Friday’s game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3, with Mike Gleason (play-by-play) and Phil Ford (color commentary) on the call. In addition, “Voice of the Panthers” Evan Lepler and Stafford Stephenson also will call the game on the High Point Panthers Radio Network, with pre-game coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m.
• HPU claimed a share of the 2014-15 Big South regular season title. The Panthers are the first team since Winthrop (2004-07) to win three consecutive Big South regular season championships.
• The Purple & White’s 22 wins are tied for the most in the program’s Div. I history. The 20-win season is the second in HPU’s Div. I history and 18th all-time.
• The Panthers have set new Div. I program records for road wins (9), league road wins (6) and road winning percentage (.600) in 2014-15.
• HPU is 10-13 (.435) all-time in the Big South Tournament and 3-2 as the No. 2 seed (2004, 2007). HPU is 7-6 all-time in quarterfinal action. The Panthers are 1-0 against Gardner-Webb in the tournament.
• Last time out, HPU fell at Charleston Southern, 97-93 (3OT), Saturday in the team’s regular season finale. Redshirt-junior forward John Brown led the Panthers with a team-high 27 points (12-21 FG) and six rebounds in the contest.
• Brown was named First Team All-Big South Monday. He is one of just five players in league history to be named to the first team in three consecutive seasons. He is one of two HPU players to accomplish the feat, joining former Panther great Arizona Reid (2006-08).
• HPU is shooting 52.3 percent (127-243) over its past four games. The Panthers rank in the top 25 in the nation in field goal percentage (.479) and are 9-3 when they shoot 50 percent or better from the field.
• HPU is ranked No. 81 out of 351 teams in Thursday’s NCAA RPI report and No. 25 in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Top-25 poll.
HPU AMONG NATION’S ELITE IN CONFERENCE PLAY OVER THE PAST THREE SEASONS
Over the past three seasons, HPU leads the Big South in conference wins (37), conf. winning percentage (.740) and is the only school to make back-to-back post-season appearances (2014 NIT, 2013 CIT). HPU is one of just 37 programs in the country to post a conference winning percentage of .740 or better over the two seasons. That list of schools includes Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, Gonzaga and Wichita State.
A LOOK AT THE RUNNIN’ BULLDOGS (19-13, 10-8)
Gardner-Webb entered the 2015 Big South Championship as the No. 7 seed and moved on to the quarterfinals after a 72-64 win over No. 10 Campbell on Wednesday in first round action. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are led by First Team All-Big South selection Jerome Hill, who ranks third in the conference with 19.0 ppg and is grabbing a league-best 10.1 rebounds per contest. All-Big South second team guard Tyler Strange ranks second nationally with 7.6 assists per contest and is 10th in assist/turnover ratio (3.2).
HISTORY vs. GARDNER-WEBB
A meeting with Gardner-Webb Friday marks the 48th all-time meeting between the Panthers and Runnin’ Bulldogs. HPU leads the all-time series 25-22 (.532) and has captured five of the past six meetings. HPU swept the season series, winning 84-72 in Boiling Springs and 83-62 on Feb. 18 in High Point. Junior guard Adam Weary averaged 16.0 ppg in the two games this season, including a career-high 23 in Boiling Springs. Weary also averaged 5.0 assists and shot 66.7 percent (14-21) against the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
With a victory, High Point will move on to the Big South semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3. The Panthers would play the winner of the quarterfinal game between No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina and No. 6 seed UNC Asheville.