GAME NOTES (PDF)
Gardner-Webb returns from a grueling, four-game road trip to host Wofford at 7:00 pm in Paul Porter Arena on Wednesday, December 4. The game will be available live, and free of charge, on the Big South Network. Audio will be available on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org). Fabian Fuentes will call the game on both platforms.
Gardner-Webb holds a 5-3 lead in the overall series, including a 3-0 mark in Boiling Springs, N.C. ... The two teams only meeting in Paul Porter Arena came on February 1, 1995, with Gardner-Webb taking a 92-77 win when both programs were members of NCAA Division II ... Wofford won last season, 54-42, with a late rally in Spartanburg, S.C. ... The series began on January 2, 1970 when both teams were NAIA members.
Gardner-Webb head coach Tim Craft is in his first season with the program and is off to a 4-4 start. Wofford head coach Mike Young is 171-176 in his 12th season in charge of the Terriers.
GARDNER-WEBB AGAINST THE SOCON
Gardner-Webb has posted a 4-3 mark against Southern Conference membership in men’s basketball since 2010 ... The lone home game among those seven was a 71-58 win over The Citadel last December 15 ... GWU dropped a 75-64 decision at Furman this season, playing the game without leading scorer Naji Hibbert.
Transfer guard Naji Hibbert (6-5, 190, RSr.) is making a major impact in his first, and only, season in Boiling Springs. Hibbert has scored in double figures in each of his last six starts, averaging 17.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game during that stretch – which has included four GWU wins. Hibbert went for a career-high 23 points vs. Morehead State in Las Vegas, earning himself Big South Player of the Week honors with that effort and a strong game the night before vs. IUPUI. Hibbert was a consensus top-60 recruit at DeMatha Catholic as a prep senior, before spending three seasons as a top reserve at Texas A&M. He helped the Aggies to a pair of 24-win seasons and two NCAA Tournaments during his time in College Station.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Rookie big man Tyrell Nelson (6-7, 235, Fr.) continued his early rise in Gardner-Webb’s frontcourt fortunes last week, averaging 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 block per game in three games (two starts). The Charlotte, N.C., native saved his best for last, going for a career-high 15 points and 11 boards in the win over Morehead State – which rotated a pair of 6-foot-11, 250-pound posts. Nelson was named Big South Freshman of the Week on December 2 for his efforts, which also included a career-best 36 minutes played vs. the Eagles.
MIKE, MIKE, MIKE
Veteran center Mike Byron (6-10, 245, Sr.) had his best game of the season against IUPUI, scoring nine points in the first half and finishing with those nine points, a season-high 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Gardner-Webb improved to 4-0 over the past two seasons during Thanksgiving-week games, winning the Upper Division of the 2013 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational with wins over IUPUI and Morehead State in the desert. GWU won the Mayan Division of the 2012 Cancun Challenge last season with wins in Mexico over Howard and Austin Peay.
Gardner-Webb was picked second in the preseason South Division poll by the Big South Conference’s head coaches and select media members, falling just behind defending division and overall regular season champion Charleston Southern. GWU finished a game behind the Bucs last season, but picked up a pair of overtime wins over Charleston Southern during the regular season. GWU lost just twice against South Division teams last season, falling on the road at Winthrop and Presbyterian and finishing with a 8-2 mark against Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, UNC Asheville, Winthrop and Presbyterian.
SIZZLING SIXTH MAN NAMED ALL-TOURNEY
Guard Isaiah Ivey (6-2, 190, So.) exploded for 17 second-half points in the overtime win against Morehead State (11/29), heating up from long range and making a career-best 7-of-7 from the charity stripe. His 3-pointer with 10 seconds left tied the game and the Runnin’ Bulldogs won in overtime. It was Ivey’s third double-figures scoring game of the season off the bench, which includes a 13-point effort at Missouri. Ivey did not record a double-figures scoring game as a freshman last season. He earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team in Las Vegas for his effort.
FREE THROWS IMPORTANT
Gardner-Webb knocked down 29-of-33 free throws in the second half and overtime to rally past Morehead State, and enters this week with 29 more made free throws (160) than any other team in the Big South Conference. Point guard Josh Castellanos (6-1, 185, Gr.) scored 11 points in the overtime period by going an effective 11-of-12 at the free throw stripe.
FINALLY HOME AGAIN
Gardner-Webb returns to a home court that has been very comfortable over the past two seasons, playing its first game in Paul Porter Arena since November 19 when it hosts Wofford. The Runnin’ Bulldogs lost at home just three times last season in 15 home dates and only twice by a combined five points during the regular season. This season, GWU is 2-0 and has sizzled from long range with a friendly shooting backdrop – making 50.0 percent (17-of-34) from 3-point land in those two wins. GWU knocked off a very talented Jacksonville team 87-78 in its home opener (11/16) and whipped a severly overmatched Allen (S.C.) squad 92-51 (11/19) in a three-day stretch.
Gardner-Webb travels to face The Citadel Saturday afternoon in Charleston, S.C. The game will air live on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org), with Fabian Fuentes calling the action. †