ROCK HILL, S.C. – Gardner-Webb men's basketball opens the 2017 postseason Thursday night, playing No. 5 seed High Point in the fourth quarterfinal game of the Big South Conference Championships at Winthrop Coliseum.
Opening tip is set for approximately 9:00 pm, or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 7:00 pm quarterfinal between No. 1 Winthrop and No. 8 Charleston Southern. All of Thursday's games will stream live on ESPN3 (WatchESPN.com).
Evan Lepler (PxP) and Nate Ross (Analyst) will provide the call for the Gardner-Webb/High Point contest.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (18-13) seized sole possession of fourth place in the final regular season standings based on Saturday's 88-86 overtime road win over the same High Point squad it will face in the quarterfinals.
The back-and-forth affair was indicative of the league's regular season, particularly in the top half of the standings. Gardner-Webb and High Point split their regular season series, with the Panthers taking a 71-64 win in Boiling Springs.
The Runnin' Bulldogs shot an even 50 percent in the loss, but saw 15 turnovers turn into a 20-4 edge for High Point. The Panthers shared the basketball at a very high rate in December, dishing out 21 assists on 26 made baskets.
Gardner-Webb gave up 24 points off of turnovers in Saturday's win on the road, but converted High Point's miscues (14) into 21 points of its own to negate much of the advantage. The Runnin' Bulldogs also corralled 15 offensive rebounds for 17 second-chance points (+8 advantage) and knocked in nine three-pointers for the game.
All-Big South guard Laquincy Rideau has been consistent in the two games vs. High Point, scoring 22 points each time. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native dished off nine assists in Saturday's win and is one of four GWU players who averaged in double figures against the Panthers in two games this season.
Senior forward Tyrell Nelson, who earned second-team All-Big South honors for the second season in a row on Monday, has endured a tough series against the Panthers in those two games. The Charlotte, N.C., native averaged just 4.0 points per game, shooting 16.7 percent in the process. The 6-foot-7, 235-pounder is averaging 8.5 rebounds per game against HPU – but was hampered severely by an illness in the first meeting on December 29.
High Point's All-Big South forward – fifth-year senior Miles Bowman, Jr., – has been a force for the Panthers in two games vs. Gardner-Webb this season. Bowman is averaging 22.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in the 2016-2017 series, shooting 72.7 percent from the floor (16-of-22) and 71.4 percent from long range (5-of-7). Bowman had 21 points in the December win and scored 24 points on Saturday in his home finale at the Millis Center.
Tarique Thompson (15.0 ppg), Andre Fox (13.0 ppg) and Anthony Lindauer (12.5 ppg) have scored well against the 'Dogs this season and High Point has made 52.0 percent of its threes (13-of-25) against Gardner-Webb in the two games. The Panthers were without injured point guard Jamal Wright in Saturday's loss. Wright had seven points, six assists and only one turnover in December's victory in Paul Porter Arena.
Gardner-Webb has been very effective – despite some turnover problems – during its current four-game win streak. The Runnin' Bulldogs have six players averaging in double figures during the streak, led by Rideau at 15.0 points per game. Rideau is also averaging 8.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.0 steals per game over the last four contests.
David Efianayi (13.5 ppg), Jamaal Robateau (11.3 ppg), DJ Laster (11.3 ppg), Nelson (10.5 ppg) and Liam O'Reilly (10.5 ppg) are also scoring in double figures during the four wins. Robateau (50%), Nelson (50%), O'Reilly (47.8%) and Laster (40%) have each shot very well from long distance, helping GWU shoot 42.0 percent from deep as a team in the process since February 15.
The 'Dogs have also averaged 20 made free throws per game since its February 15 win over Radford, with All-Big South guard Efianayi hitting at an 82.1 percent clip (23-of-28). The balanced scoring has helped GWU average 80.8 points per game dating back to the Radford win – and the Runnin' Bulldogs have hit the 80-point mark in three consecutive games.
The Gardner-Webb/High Point matchup is the lone quarterfinal that pits two teams against each other who split this year's series. The other higher seeds – Winthrop, Asheville and Liberty – posted 2-0 records this season against their quarterfinal opponent.
The winner of Thursday night's late quarterfinal will take on the winner of the Winthrop/Charleston Southern game on Friday night at 8:00 pm in Rock Hill.