Boiling Springs, N.C. - The Gardner-Webb women’s basketball team had one of the largest turn-a-rounds in terms of overall wins this season, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs posted 13 victories in 2012-13, an improvement of nine wins from the previous season. The Runnin’ Bulldogs not only improved on its record from the 2011-12 season, but head coach Rick Reeves’ squad was also relevant nationally in a number of statistical categories all season long.
GWU posted an overall 13-18 record on the season and went 5-13 in Big South Conference play to finish ninth in the Big South Conference Regular season standings. The Runnin’ Bulldogs went on to win its Big South Championship Tournament quarterfinals game over No. 8 Coastal Carolina, 64-60, to advance to the semifinals against the No. 1 Liberty Lady Flames, who defeated GWU 78-61 to end the season for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb finished ranked in the top-15 nationally in field goal percentage defense, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs held its opponents to only 34.5 percent shooing on the season, and in the top-25 with a plus 6.7 advantage in rebound margin on the year.
For the season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs, which had no active seniors on the roster and a total of nine underclassmen suit up in at least 17 contests on the year, posted a number of top-five team single season records in most games played (31), lowest opponent scoring average (58.1 points per game), highest three-point field goal percentage (30.9 percent), highest rebounding average (44.9 per game) and highest steals average (9.5 per game).
Individually, freshman Candace Brown, who led the Runnin’ Bulldogs with an average of 9.9 points per game in Big South Conference play, was named to the Big South All-Freshman Team, while sophomore forward Chariah Harris earned a spot on the Big South All-Academic Team.
Junior Jasmine Dale, who was ranked in the top-10 nationally in three-point field goal percentage for most of the season, was second in the conference at 42.6 percent behind the arc and climbed into second-place overall in GWU’s Division I record books with 145 career made three-pointers. Dale also led the team in scoring with an average of 10.4 points per game, despite missing seven games due to an injury, while fellow junior Catrina Green was right on her heels with her average of 10.2 points per game. Green, who surpassed the 500 career rebound mark midway through the season, averaged 9.4 rebounds per game, which ranked fourth in the Big South Conference overall, and jumped into the top-five in GWU’s Division I career record books in rebounds (686), offensive rebounds (323) and in blocked shots (115).
Sophomores Jessica Heilig and Mayhana Dunovant also reached career marks during the year, as Heilig topped both the 400 career points and 300 career rebounds mark, while Dunovant exceeded the 100 career assists mark midway through the season.
Coach Reeves also reached another career milestone, as Gardner-Webb’s 55-38 home win over Presbyterian on February 7th proved to be the 400th win of his career, putting him in a small group of coaches to reach that mark at the NCAA Division I intercollegiate level.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs started the season off with three straight home wins over Lipscomb, Tennessee Temple and Montreat College to start the year off at 3-0 overall heading into its first road game of the year.
GWU dropped each of its first two road games, back-to-back losses at UNC Greensboro and Appalachian State, before returning home after the Thanksgiving break to post a 76-41 win over Asbury to improve to 4-2 overall on the season.
After Gardner-Webb dropped three straight games, all at home to Coastal Carolina, Longwood and Davidson, Coach Reeves’ squad bounced back to post a road win at Wofford, a home victory over N.C. Central and another road win at Kennesaw State to finish the 2012 calendar year out at 7-5 overall.
Having already suffered a Big South Conference loss to Coastal Carolina in its conference opener back on December 1st, GWU jumped into its full conference schedule in the new year with five straight losses to fall to 0-6 before picking up its first conference win of the year at UNC Asheville, 58-45, on January 19th.
Following the win over the Bulldogs, Gardner-Webb struggled to score in a road loss at Presbyterian College, yet bounced back to record three straight wins over Charleston Southern, UNC Asheville and a home win over the Blue Hose of PC to move to 4-7 in the Big South.
However, another three game losing streak, which included losses versus Charleston Southern and at both Campbell and Coastal Carolina, would set the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ bid to climb into the top half of the regular season conference standings back and caused Gardner-Webb to step back and regroup with four games left in the regular season.
A home win over High Point ended the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ losing skid at three, however, Gardner-Webb struggled down the stretch, dropping the final three games of the season to Liberty, Winthrop and Radford to finish the regular season slate at 12-17 overall and ninth in the Big South standings at 5-13 in conference play.
With the No. 9 seed, the Runnin’ Bulldogs drew the host institution in No. 8 Coastal Carolina in the first round of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Women’s Basketball Championship in Conway, S.C. GWU went on to defeat the home team, 64-60, to advance to the semifinals against No. 1 Liberty.
In the semifinals, the Runnin’ Bulldogs fell behind early and were unable to overcome a hot-shooting Liberty team that defeated Gardner-Webb 78-61 to end the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ season.
Despite the semifinal loss, the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ future looks bright for Coach Reeves’ and his squad, as the entire active roster returns with yet another year of experience under their belts, while the addition of three highly touted signees in Christina McQueen (Findlay, Ohio), Kiera Currie (Romeoville, Illinois) and Tierra Huntsman (Connersville, Indiana) will bring even more talent and depth to a team that made huge strides throughout the 2012-13 season.