BOILING SPRINGS – David Efianayi scored 19 points and Jose Perez added 17 points to lift Gardner-Webb to a 69-67 win over High Point Wednesday night in Paul Porter Arena.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs (13-9, 3-4 Big South) improved to 8-0 at home this season and have won 20 of their last 22 in Paul Porter Arena.
Gardner-Webb led by as many as nine points in the second half and held off a mild flurry in the closing moments by the Panthers (11-10, 4-3 Big South). Jahaad Procter’s three at the final horn provided the final margin.
After trailing by a pair at the break, 37-35, head coach Tim Craft went to a zone – and switched defenses effectively in the second half – to slow down the inside attack of High Point (11-10, 4-3 Big South). The Runnin’ Bulldogs forced 11 second-half turnovers and converted those into 12 big points.
Gardner-Webb had a 20-10 scoring edge off of turnovers overall Wednesday night and was very effective using the long ball to offset High Point’s size advantage. GWU made 12-of-24 shots from long range (50 percent) and shot 48.1 percent overall (25-of-52).
Perez made 4-of-6 shots from three-point range, Efianayi made 3-of-6 from that distance and Jaheam Cornwall knocked down 3-of-5. Cornwall finished with 11 points and DJ Laster had 10 as the Runnin’ Bulldogs placed four men in double figures on the night. Nate Johnson added eight markers on 2-of-4 shooting from long range.
Both teams started hot, with High Point going inside to make 6-of-7 in the early stages and Gardner-Webb making 4-of-5 shots from three-point range. Both teams took turns in the lead, with the lead exchanging hands 11 times in the opening 20 minutes.
After High Point went up four with 1:36 remaining before halftime – its largest lead of the night – Gardner-Webb sandwiched three-pointers from Efianayi and Perez around a Caden Sanchez layup to tie the score with 45.3 seconds left.
Proctor drove the lane and hit a floater with 9.8 seconds left to give High Point a 37-35 lead at the break.
Gardner-Webb used an 8-0 run early in the second half to go up 43-38 with 16:20 left in the game, but High Point surged back in front on a jumper by Curtis Holland III and a traditional three-point play by Proctor with 12:43 left.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs responded with a decisive 10-0 run, getting a layup from Eric Jamison, Jr., consecutive threes from Perez and Cornwall and a layup by Laster to go up 57-48 with 8:40 remaining. High Point wouldn’t let the margin get to double figures, but Gardner-Webb did not see its lead dip below two possessions until Proctor’s buzzer beater.
Proctor scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting and finished with four assists in 38 minutes to pace High Point. Ricky Madison had 16 points and nine rebounds in the post and Brandon Kamga notched his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He added four steals.
Reserve post player Caden Sanchez came off the bench to score eight points and pull down six rebounds in 15 important minutes.
High Point shot 49.1 percent from the floor, but cooled to 40 percent in the second half. The Panthers also struggled from deep, knocking down just 3-of-18 from three-point range (16.7 percent).
Gardner-Webb will stay at home for its next test, hosting a rapidly improving UNC Asheville squad on Saturday, February 2, at 3:00 pm.
For ticket information, call Gardner-Webb athletics at (704) 406-4340.