Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: High Point 75, Gardner-Webb 71
Records: HPU 11-4 (9-1 Big South), GWU 4-9 (4-4 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Friday, January 22, 2021 — at Presbyterian (Clinton, S.C.) 6 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University women’s basketball team tied its Division I program record for consecutive wins with a come-from-behind, 75-71, victory over Gardner-Webb University Saturday afternoon (Jan. 16).
The win was the Panthers’ ninth in a row, making it the third time HPU has won nine straight games since joining Division I in 1999 and first since the 2011-12 season. The win also propelled the Panthers into elite company nationally as the Purple and White became just the 11th team in Division I women’s basketball this season to win their 11th game of the year.
“Obviously the first half didn’t go as well as we would’ve liked,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said following the win. “[Gardner-Webb] was more aggressive in its press today and caused us some issues – we had 18 turnovers in the first half, which is just unacceptable. You’re not going to beat very many teams turning the ball over that many times. Fortunately, we came out and made some plays in the second half. Gardner-Webb is physical and good and got us out of our groove a little. We made plays down the stretch and Skyler [Curran] was excellent and shot the ball very well. She stepped up and knocked down shots when we needed them. We started attacking more in the second half and were able to get to the free-throw line and knock down some shots there.”
High Point trailed for a majority of the contest, taking its first lead of the day four minutes into the third quarter. HPU improved its scoring and shooting in each quarter, culminating in a 27-point fourth quarter that saw the Panthers shoot 80% from the floor to secure the victory. The Purple and White’s final frame yielded the most points HPU has scored in the fourth quarter and the best shooting percentage High Point has had in any quarter this season.
Four Panthers ended the day in double digits, led for the second game in a row by junior Skyler Curran with 25 points. Curran had a monster second half, scoring 19 of her 25 after the break while going 5-7 from the floor and 6-6 from the line. Curran also added 10 rebounds over the course of the game for her third double-double of the season, making it the second-straight game HPU has had a double-double after redshirt sophomore Jenson Edwards scored 18 and grabbed 11 rebounds last night.
Freshman Claire Wyatt also put up double digits after halftime, scoring 10 in the second half on a 4-5 effort from the floor to finish with 12 in the game. Wyatt was also a menace on the defensive end, swatting away four Gardner-Webb shots for a career-high in blocks. Joining Curran and Wyatt in double digits at the end of the day were Edwards with 14 and redshirt freshman Cydney Johnson with 10. It was the sixth time this year that HPU has had four scorers in double-digits, with all six resulting in wins.
The first half was an ugly one for the Panthers, highlighted by 18 turnovers as a team. Gardner-Webb took the lead a minute-and-a-half into the game and didn’t lose it in the first 20 minutes, with High Point only coming within a point once in the first quarter.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs were effective with their press and caught the Purple and White off guard to start the game, forcing 10 of the 18 turnovers in the opening stanza. Gardner-Webb led by seven with three minutes left in the first but a three-pointer from Courtney Meadows – her first triple of the season, pulled the Panthers within four at the end of the quarter, 13-9. It was only the second time HPU has been held to single digits in the opening quarter and was just the fourth time High Point failed to reach double-digits in any quarter all season.
The lead stayed at four until Gardner-Webb pushed it to double digits for the first time with back-to-back triples to take a 24-13, with Edwards nailing a jumper in the paint in between the GWU threes. Curran responded with a three of her own to cut it back to single digits at eight, but four straight for the Runnin’ Bulldogs gave the visitors their largest lead of the day, 28-16, with 3:35 left in the half.
High Point fought back in the final minutes of the second, scoring eight in a row to cut its deficit to four. Freshman LaImani Simmons started the run with an inside bucket and Johnson dropped in the rest in a variety of ways, knocking down one from the stripe, connecting from deep, and slashing her way to the rim. The Panthers seemed poised to make it a one-possession game at the break when they were awarded the ball out of bounds with 20 seconds left but the 18th team turnover of the half led to a buzzer-beater for Gardner-Webb to make it a six-point game, 30-24, heading into the locker room.
Curran’s dominance in the second half started early as she knocked down a three-pointer on High Point’s first possession for the first of 10 points in the third quarter. Curran’s three made it a three-point game, and a free throw from classmate Jordan Edwards cut the deficit to just two, 30-28. The Runnin’ Bulldogs pushed their lead back up to seven at 35-28 but it didn’t last long, with HPU scoring the next eight to take its first lead of the game.
Johnson hit her second trey of the game to start the run, followed by a jumper on the break from Jenson Edwards to make it a two-point game again. The lead was erased 30 seconds later when Simmons went to the line and drilled them both, and then Johnson connected on one free throw to give the Panthers their first lead at 36-35, just under four minutes into the half.
The lead changed hands seven more times throughout the rest of the quarter, with neither team able to lead by more than three in the final five minutes of the third. Curran kept flipping the lead for the Purple and White, scoring seven in a row for HPU thanks to a pair of free throws, a triple, and an inside layup. Curran’s layup with 90 seconds left in the third cut Gardner-Webb’s lead to one, 46-45, and Wyatt connected on a corner three to give High Point the lead a minute later. The lead didn’t stay with the Panthers entering the fourth, as Gardner-Webb knocked down a shot from deep with six seconds on the clock to take a one-point, 49-48, lead into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was a high-scoring affair for both teams, with the two sides combining for nearly 50 points in the final 10 minutes. High Point was extremely efficient from the floor in the fourth, going 8-10 with both misses coming from behind the arc. HPU made its shots from the stripe count as well, going 10-13 from the foul line in the quarter.
Gardner-Webb made it a two-possession game with a four-point lead two minutes in, and the lead teetered between four and two points for the Runnin’ Bulldogs for the next three minutes as the sides traded buckets. Curran stopped the pattern with the team’s only three of the quarter – her fifth of the game, cutting it to a one-point game and igniting an 11-0 run that gave the Panthers the lead and the lead for good.
Curran, Wyatt, and Jenson Edwards contributed all 11 points on the run, part of seven-point performances for Wyatt and Edwards in the fourth quarter and a nine-point effort from Curran. Gardner-Webb broke a three-minute scoreless drought to make it a six-point game at 67-61 with just over two minutes left but Wyatt was fouled going to the rim on the next possession, getting the hoop and the harm. She converted on her free throw to run the lead up to nine, 71-60 – the largest of the game for the Panthers with two minutes left.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs weren’t done yet and fought back to make it just a two-point game on an old-fashioned three-point play with nine seconds left. High Point called a timeout after the free throw to advance the ball to the frontcourt and the Purple and White got the ball in the hands of Curran on the inbound, who was fouled with five seconds left. Curran looked as calm as ever at the line and sank both of her shots to make it a two-possession game, 75-71. HPU’s defense held firm in the final seconds, forcing a miss on a Gardner-Webb three-pointer and stifling the ensuing jumper after an offensive rebound to ice the game and complete the comeback.
High Point will look to win its 10th game in a row and set a new Division I program record on Friday (Jan. 22) when the Panthers head to Presbyterian for a two-game series with the Blue Hose. Friday’s game is slated to start at 6 p.m., with tip on Saturday (Jan. 23) scheduled for 4 p.m.