Gardner-Webb women’s basketball wins Big South title, punches NCAA Tournament ticket
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jhessyka Williams played all 40 minutes and scored a season high 33 points in the 2023 Big South Hercules Tires Big South Basketball Championship Finals on Sunday to punch Gardner-Webb’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
The final score for the game was #1 GWU 74 - #2 HPU 61 as the Runnin’ Bulldogs claimed their 21st consecutive victory and finish 21-0 against Big South competition, the best mark in the history of the league.
High Point found their shooting touch early and held the lead for the entire first quarter. The Panthers were able to push their advantage to as many as eight twice during it.
At the end of the first quarter, HPU led 18-10. The Runnin’ Bulldogs opened the second on a 9-0 run to take a 19-18 lead at the 7:31 mark after Alasia Smith converted on an and-one. This marked GWU’s first lead of the game.
The teams traded scoring runs throughout the rest of the period, but Gardner-Webb was able to hold their lead for the final three minutes of the half. Williams made a driving layup in the closing seconds to give GWU a 35-32 lead going into halftime.
In the third, GWU was able to continue to hold off the Panthers leading by two possessions for most of the quarter. The Panthers took their first lead since 3:44 left in the second quarter as time expired in the third.
Jensen Edwards converted a step back jumper that put them ahead 49-48 with ten minutes to play.
Gardner-Webb dominated in the fourth quarter as they scored the first 14 points of the quarter and held the Panthers scoreless for the first six minutes in the final period of action. The margin they created during this run gave them the advantage they needed to get the win as they hit their free throws at the end of the game for the victory.
Williams led all scorers with 33 and pulled down 11 rebounds for a double double. She also had the team-high in steals and blocks with four and two.
Layken Cox recorded a double double as well with her adding 16 points and 15 boards.
Ki’Ari Cain rounded out GWU’s players in double figures as she finished with 14.
As a team, GWU shot 24-53 (45%) from the floor and hit on 23-29 chances from the line.
The ‘Dogs ended with a 41-25 edge on the boards as well.
Gardner-Webb will find out its tournament destination next week during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night at 8:00 pm (ESPN).
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