ROCK HILL, S.C. – Gardner-Webb used a 21-3 run early in the second half to put the game away and cruised to a 91-55 win over High Point in Big South Conference men's basketball quarterfinals.
Tyrell Nelson scored 16 points to go with 11 rebounds and Jamaal Robateau had 15 points to lead a group of five players in double figures. DJ Laster (12 points), Liam O'Reilly (11 points) and David Efianayi (10 points) also scored in double figures, and Laquincy Rideau finished with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in a fine floor game.
Gardner-Webb (19-13) shot a sizzling 55.6 percent in the second half, including 7-of-12 from long range to pull away. It is the program's third-straight trip to the Big South Conference semifinals.
"We were as good offensively at times tonight as we've been all season," said Gardner-Webb head coach Tim Craft. "I thought our preparation and effort was strong and defensively we came out with great execution over the first parts of each half. We have to enjoy this very quickly and prepare ourselves for an excellent Winthrop team."
The Runnin' Bulldogs opened up the game with an 11-2 run and led by as many as 14 points in the opening 20 minutes.
The 'Dogs led 39-30 at the break and scored the first five points of the second half to lead 44-30 after Rideau nailed a 30-footer late in the shot clock with 18:34 left in the game.
Gardner-Webb followed with an avalanche that High Point (15-16) was unable to respond to, going on a 21-3 run to go up 65-35 with 12:14 left after back-to-back treys from Robateau.
The Runnin' Bulldogs went deep into the bench in the final three minutes, with all available bodies seeing game action. The large margin allowed the GWU starters plenty of rest, with all five playing less than 30 minutes – and four played 22 minutes or less.
Nelson knocked down several long jumpers in the first half and was a perfect 4-of-4 at the free throw line – part of a larger effort that saw Gardner-Webb go 19-of-26 from the charity stripe (73.1 percent).
Robateau knocked down 3-of-4 from three-point range in the game, as Gardner-Webb made a red-hot 12-of-23 as a team (52.2 percent). O'Reilly (3-for-6), Rideau (2-for-3) and Efianayi (2-for-3) were also efficient from deep.
High Point had difficulties all evening from the floor, as Gardner-Webb ran the Panthers off the three-point line early in both halves to build and extend the lead. The Panthers finished the game just 17-of-62 from the floor (27.4 percent), made only 1-of-17 from three (6.9 percent). High Point was again very effective at the stripe, keeping the game competitive in the first half by making free throws.
The Panthers finished 20-of-26 from the line Thursday evening (76.9 percent).
Gardner-Webb held a sizable 49-35 edge on the backboards and scored a 41-22 edge in bench points.
The 36-point margin of victory is Gardner-Webb's largest in a conference tournament game since joining NCAA Division I. It came less than a week after the Runnin' Bulldogs took an 88-86 overtime win at High Point to secure the No. 4 seed.
Gardner-Webb will now face top-seed and host Winthrop in the semifinals on Friday night. The game is set to tip at 8:00 pm, or 30 minutes after the No. 6 Radford/No. 7 Campbell semifinal.