HIGH POINT, N.C. – With High Point down a number of players due to injury and a potential first-round bye on the line, the charge for Panther forward Ricky Madison was a clear one.
“(The challenge was) just to step up,” said Madison. “To bring more energy to the game, to try to score more than I usually do, and keep rebounding like I usually do, as well.”
Madison responded with a career-high 23 points and added 12 boards for his sixth double-double of the season, as the Panthers staved off a late Gardner-Webb run and recorded an 87-79 victory before an announced crowd of 1,202 in the Millis Center Saturday night.
“I thought we did some good things tonight. Obviously, sharing the basketball was number one. We passed the ball, I think, the best we’ve done all year,” said High Point coach Tubby Smith. “It was a good team effort all the way around.”
High Point (15-13, 8-6 Big South) set the tone for the first half early, as it ran out to a 10-0 run before the first media break and turned a three-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. Gardner-Webb (18-11, 8-6) continued to counterpunch, but the Panthers kept the Runnin’ Bulldogs at a comfortable distance for much of the opening stanza. A Dexter Gooding triple at the 7:31 mark gave High Point its first double-digit advantage of the night at 38-26, and a second extended the lead to 15.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs worked the lead back to six as the interval approached, but a Curtis Holland trey just before the horn gave High Point a 48-39 margin at the interval.
The Panthers seemed incapable of missing in stretches during the opening half, connecting on 18-of-30 tries (60 percent), with 54 percent of threes (7-of-13) finding the mark. Smith noted some concern with his team’s defense, however, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs knocked down 12-of-22 (55 percent) in the first half.
The cadence of the first half continued into the second, as every Gardner-Webb basket seemed to be countered by a High Point conversion. The Panther lead quickly returned to double digits just over two-and-a-half minutes in following a Madison bucket, and stayed there until a Justin Jenkins corner three knifed the advantage to seven with 8:39 to go.
As quickly as that took place, however, Jahaad Proctor canned a triple to extend the lead back into double figures. Proctor, who came into the game needing 70 points to reach the 1,000 mark for his career, also took it upon himself to guide his club through adversity.
“One man goes down, the next man has to step up,” said Proctor. “We work all year for everybody to be prepared for situations like this. That’s what our team has done.”
The Panthers held off the Runnin’ Bulldogs until a late charge by the visitor, fueled by a stout defense. High Point’s 14-point lead was whittled to a single possession over the course of four minutes, behind an 11-0 Gardner-Webb run. An Eric Jamison try in the paint with just under a minute remaining that would have reduced the lead to just one spun out, leading to a Jordan Whitehead rebound and High Point timeout.
Gardner-Webb elected to play out the possession on defense and try to regain the ball. As the shot clock wound down, Proctor drew a defender onto the perimeter. The High Point sharpshooter then executed a pump-fake, and splashed home the triple that would eventually seal the game for his side.
“I saw he (the defender) was running hard. He was either going to run hard at me, and I was going to go baseline, or I was going to pump-fake and (take) one dribble,” stated Proctor. “That’s just a typical shot that I shoot any other time. I’m the captain of this team, I’m the leader, the leading scorer. I really don’t see any pressure with that shot. It was just a big shot. Big players make big plays, and I had to step up and make a play.”
Smith complimented Gardner-Webb on its run and its second-half defense.
“We had them on the ropes. They made their run, and we couldn’t score,” said Smith. “Their defense was excellent … It was because of their good defense. They did an excellent job of challenging us at the rim, and on every pass and every dribble.”
Gardner-Webb placed four scorers in double figures, led by Nate Johnson and David Efianayi’s 15 apiece. Brandon Miller scored 12 off the bench while DJ Laster tallied 11. The Runnin’ Bulldogs shot 61 percent (14-for-23) in the second half, and 58 percent (26-for-45) for the game.
Whitehead joined Madison in the career-high brigade, snapping his career-best that he set just two weeks prior against Hampton. Whitehead put in 15 points and hauled down seven boards in 36 key minutes of play. Proctor added 16 on 5-for-10 shooting, while snatching four rebounds. The Panthers recorded 23 assists on 31 made shots, a detail that did not elude Smith.
“The biggest stat of the night is the assist-to-turnover ratio, and the bench play,” said Smith. The Panthers committed just nine miscues against the 23 dimes. High Point also outrebounded Gardner-Webb, 33-21, with a 15-5 offensive rebounding advantage. This turned into a 22-6 second-chance points advantage, and afforded High Point 16 more shot attempts than Gardner-Webb.
Both teams return to Big South play Wednesday night. Gardner-Webb hosts Presbyterian in Paul Porter Arena, with tip time slated for 7:00 (Eastern). High Point welcomes league-leading Radford to the Millis Center for Senior Night. That game will also commence at 7:00.
HIGH POINT 87, GARDNER-WEBB 79
GARDNER-WEBB (18-11, 8-6 BIG SOUTH): Perez 3-6 0-0 8, Laster 5-7 1-2 11, Cornwall 2-4 1-1 6, Johnson 5-8 0-0 15, Efianayi 3-9 8-11 15, Jamison 3-5 0-0 6, Jenkins 2-3 0-0 6, Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 3-3 6-11 12, Dufeal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-45 16-25 79.
HIGH POINT (15-13, 8-6 BIG SOUTH): Madison 9-12 4-4 23, Whitehead 5-7 5-7 15, Slay 2-6 0-0 4, Holland III 2-13 2-3 7, Proctor 6-11 0-0 16, Wright 3-5 0-0 9, Gooding 3-4 0-0 9, Sanchez 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 31-61 13-16 87.
Halftime — High Point 48-39. 3-Point Goals—Gardner-Webb 11-23 (Perez 2-4, Laster 0-1, Cornwall 1-2, Johnson 5-8, Efianayi 1-5 Jenkins 2-3), High Point 12-22 (Madison 1-2, Slay 0-2, Holland III 1-4, Proctor 4-6, Wright 3-4, Gooding 3-4). Fouled Out — NA. Rebounds — High Point 33 (Madison 12), Gardner-Webb 21 (Miller 6). Assists —High Point 23 (Wright 6), Gardner-Webb 11 (Perez/Efianayi 3). Total Fouls — Gardner-Webb 17, High Point 16. Technical — NA. A —1202.
Points in the Paint —Gardner-Webb 28, High Point 26. Points off Turnovers —Gardner-Webb 16, High Point 16. Second-Chance Points — High Point 22, Gardner-Webb 6. Fast Break Points — High Point 2, Gardner-Webb 0. Bench Points — Gardner-Webb 24, High Point 22.
CURRENT BIG SOUTH STANDINGS