Home win streak reaches five straight as Longwood dispatches Gardner-Webb again, 78-71
Powered by a career-high 25 points from freshman point guard Justin Hill, Longwood (8-14, 7-9 Big South) led for all but 28 seconds of the second half and ended the game on a 10-5 run to put away Gardner-Webb 78-71 and sweep the two-game series Friday evening at Willett Hall.
Hill’s career scoring night saw him score 17 points in the second half, including a stretch of 11 consecutive points. He finished 9-of-16 from the floor to increase his season scoring average to 11.8 per game, the second-highest clip of any Lancer freshman in the Division I era since 2004.
“He’s worked so hard since he’s worked here to improve his shooting, and he’s gotten so much better at that,” said Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich, who recruited Hill out of his own former home of Houston, Texas.
“But the thing that I love is he’s just such a wonderful kid. That’s probably the best thing about him. He’s a terrific player, but an amazing kid. Coachable, and probably the best smile in Prince Edward County.”
Hill had plenty of reasons to smile Friday, as did the Lancers, who extended their home-court win streak to five straight. It was also the program’s sixth victory in the past nine games, third straight against Gardner-Webb, and first sweep over the Runnin’ Bulldogs since joining the Big South in 2012-13.
“This team is even better than its record,” Aldrich said. “It’s exciting to see that bear out on the scoreboard, too. The guys have worked so hard throughout the course of the season, and they’ve had a lot of disappointing results, but they’ve really stayed the course. I think now they’re starting to see things kind of come together.”
While Friday night’s win lacked a SportsCenter-worthy finish like Wade’s game-one game-winner that ended up as the No. 1 play on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays countdown, the Lancers made their mark with a balanced offensive attack that saw Wade and Juan Munoz join Hill in double figures. Wade, who scored 24 in Thursday’s win, added 18 on 6-of-9 shooting Friday, while Munoz finished with 15, including four straight made free throws with two seconds remaining.
That effort helped the Lancers survive a season-high 32 points from All-Big South point guard Jaheam Cornwall and nine made three-pointers by the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Cornwall helped Gardner-Webb come back from a 21-point deficit and a meager 19-point second half, sparking a 52-point eruption after halftime.
Gardner-Webb tied the game at 60-60 with 5:10 to play on a pair of Cornwall free throws, but Longwood’s Big South-leading defense held strong the rest of the way and limited the Bulldogs to just 11 points on their final 10 possessions.
“I really thought this was a great step for us,” Aldrich said. “We got a great lead, which was obviously fun to play with, but then they punched us really hard in the second half. Again, we weathered the storm, and that’s what really good teams do. They’re able to withstand some great shooting, maybe some calls you don’t like, shots not going in – whatever adversities they may be experiencing, and they just stay the course and make the plays you need to make at the end of the game.”
Longwood will now have a quick turnaround before the start of a two-game series against Hampton, which tips off Monday at 6 p.m. in Willett Hall. Following a six-day break after game one, the teams will reconvene in Farmville for the series finale Sunday at 3 p.m.