You’ve read the recap. Now, let’s go inside the numbers of Gardner-Webb’s comfortable win over USC Upstate Saturday afternoon.
- We should probably start with the numbers three and four. The Saturday victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, and quickly cleansed the team’s palate after last Saturday’s ridiculous, triple-overtime loss that will someday merit an oral history recapping it. As you saw in the game story, Gardner-Webb lost those three games by a combined 13 points. You also saw that the Runnin’ Bulldogs have four games in eight days after a much-deserved week off. The Big South schedule bites every team in the league at some point, and it’s now Gardner-Webb’s turn.
- Then, there’s the matter of 18-for-31. Following Jose Perez’ 6-for-34 shooting performance in the first three Big South games, he has tripled that number of makes in the last two. As one might imagine, the resurgence of the favorite of many in the media for Big South Player of the Year in the preseason is quite the storyline.
“I feel really good about Jose playing well two games in a row. (He’s been) passing the ball and setting up his teammates.” – Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft
As Craft was walking out of the sports information office, Perez was walking in. The two shook hands, hugged, and Craft joked, “If you had gotten some free throws down, you would have had 25,” as they — and we — laughed. Craft then exclaimed, “Way to pass it!,” praising Perez for his team-leading six assists. Many of those assists set up key buckets, including a triple that Jaheam Cornwall knocked down before the buzzer to end the first half.
Craft and Cornwall both commented on that shot.
“I think it was maybe a little momentum, but also, more than anything, just a bigger cushion. That’s the way I felt about it, really. They had turned us over a little bit in the press, and began to cut it to 13, or whatever it was. Certainly, it was a great play by CT (point guard Christian Turner) to kick it to Jose and then Jose to then kick it to Jah for the open shot. Jah played really well today. He was ready to score and ready to make shots. I thought it was a nice cap to the half, for sure.” – Craft
“When (Perez) passed it to me, I just knew it was going up. I held my follow-through. I’ve been working on that shot for weeks, months, you know, even the whole summer. It went in, and I felt some kind of relief, finally.” – Cornwall
Perez also joked immediately afterwards regarding the play.
“He’s lying. We do that all the time. I pump-fake, because I’m not shooting the three — I’m shooting 20 percent — so then I kick it out and make sure the 50 percent (shooter) shoots it and makes it.”
Perez also responded directly to my question regarding his last two games.
Jose, you said at Winthrop — you turned to the press table and said you knew you had to break out of this at some point. The last two games have been pretty significant for you. Are you starting to feel it a little bit more?
“Nah, I’m just — at the beginning, I was too focused on the wrong things. Now it’s just — I don’t care, (and) I’m going out there and doing what I know I can do. It’s just weight off my shoulders. My teammates keep pushing me. It’s just…go out there and do what you do.”
Perez is a good kid. He’s a conscientious kid. He celebrates his successes, but he takes the less successful moments to heart. If he’s really breaking out of that mini-slump — and hitting 18 shots and scoring 54 points in two games is a pretty darn good sign that he is — Gardner-Webb is much better equipped for the grinder of the next month it has ahead.
- USC Upstate may have found a key contributor in freshman forward Jatayveous Watson. The freshman came into the game averaging just 3.3 points per game, but he accumulated Saturday career highs in points (11) and rebounds (six). Watson’s 5-for-7 performance brought him to 16-for-22 shooting on the season. The 6-foot-8 Grantville, Georgia, native could prove large — literally and figuratively — as the season continues. The Spartans have great guard play, but the addition of a versatile post player may be just what the doctor ordered for coach Dave Dickerson.
- Speaking of those guards, freshmen Tommy Bruner and Cartier Jernigan both played quite well. Bruner put 14 points in the book, though he hit just 1-of-6 tries from beyond the arc. Jernigan contributed just a lone bucket, but has proven himself to be quite a defender early on in his collegiate career.
- Conversely, Upstate didn’t fare as well from the free throw line. The Spartans were just 8-for-16 from the stripe. That obviously would not have changed a 16-point final, but it is one of the “detail” items about which coaches obsess. Also in that same realm is three-point shooting, in which the Spartans fared considerably worse. Upstate hit just 5-of-22 tries from distance.
- It also bears mention that Upstate played Gardner-Webb even in the second half. Craft expressed disappointment after the game in his team’s second-half defensive effort — the Spartans shot 50 percent in the closing 20 — but the great first period (1.273 points per possession, 54.5% scoring trips) by the Runnin’ Bulldogs helped secure the victory. Upstate did, however, finish the game by hitting five of its final seven shots.
- If you missed this dunk, watch it. Immediately.
- And, finally, the Hustle Stats:
- Points in the paint: Gardner-Webb 38, Upstate 36
- The teams combined to convert 20 layups, according to the game stats. Watson proved to be significant in the paint, as did Gardner-Webb’s Eric Jamison. Jamison has seen some shots circle out on him in the last few outings, but has worked his way to the line. He did that again Saturday, hitting 10 of 12 attempts.
- Points off turnovers: Gardner-Webb 16, Upstate 8
- Gardner-Webb forced just nine Spartan turnovers, but were nearly perfect — numbers-wise, anyway — in turning those miscues into points. Upstate converted 12 Runnin’ Bulldog turnovers into nine points. This difference helps tell the tale of Saturday’s result.
- Second-chance points: Gardner-Webb 6, Upstate 4
- The teams combined for just 15 offensive boards.
- Fast-break points: Gardner-Webb 8, Upstate 4
- Bench points: Upstate 33, Gardner-Webb 13
- Watson and Bryson Mozone both poured in double digits off the bench, giving Upstate some production it desperately needed.
- Points in the paint: Gardner-Webb 38, Upstate 36
GARDNER-WEBB 83, USC UPSTATE 67
USC UPSTATE (7-11, 2-3 BIG SOUTH): Aldrich 0-1 0-0 0, Zink 1-2 0-3 2, Jernigan 1-2 0-0 2, Bruner 5-13 3-5 14, Hammond 7-13 0-0 16, Martin 2-4 0-0 4, White 1-2 0-0 3, Goodloe 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Mozone 4-9 1-2 10, Booker 1-4 3-3 5, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Watson 5-7 1-3 11. Totals 27-58 8-16 67.
GARDNER-WEBB (6-11, 2-3): Jamison 4-11 10-12 18, Dufeal 2-5 0-0 4, Cornwall 5-6 1-2 15, Perez 7-14 5-10 19, Johnson 4-8 4-4 14, Jenkins 2-4 0-0 5, Turner 2-2 0-0 4, Reid 2-3 0-1 4, Bryant 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-54 20-29 83.
Halftime — Gardner-Webb 42-26. 3-Point Goals—Gardner-Webb 7-16 (Jamison 0-1, Dufeal 0-1, Cornwall 4-6, Perez 0-1, Johnson 2-5, Jenkins 1-2), Upstate 5-22 (Aldrich 0-1, Bruner 1-6, Hammond 2-5, White 1-2, Goodloe 0-1, Mozone 1-5, Booker 0-2). Fouled Out —NA. Rebounds —Gardner-Webb 38 (Jamison 9), Upstate 31 (Watson 6). Assists —Gardner-Webb 13 (Perez 6), Upstate 8 (Bruner 3). Total Fouls —Upstate 20, Gardner-Webb 16. Technical —NA. A —1257.
Current Big South Standings