Longwood can’t get over hill versus Gardner-Webb

longwood logoGardner-Webb forward Jerome Hill was too much for Longwood. Then again, he’s too much for everyone these days.

The Big South’s leader in points per game, rebounds per game and double-doubles had his way in the paint against a short-handed Longwood team and scored 31 points to lead Gardner-Webb to a 79-67 win over the Lancers Thursday evening in Paul Porter Arena.

It was the second straight 30-point game for 6-5, 210-pound Hill, who scored 31 more in an upset win over Big South frontrunner Coastal Carolina last Saturday. Hill has scored at least 20 points in four of his past five games and continued that dominant stretch by hitting 12-of-21 field goals with eight rebounds, four assists and a block against the Lancers (6-15, 2-6 Big South).

“I thought Jerome Hill was too much for us. Thirty-one points and 14 free throws was just too much,” Longwood head coach Jayson Gee said. “[Tyler] Strange had 14 assists; we didn’t control him like we liked. Quincy Taylor got a tooth chipped that was causing him some issues, and we didn’t have our usual great defender on him like we usually would. It was a disappointing night. There were just too many holes to plug, and we couldn’t plug them all.”

Strange, the Big South leader in assists per game, keyed Gardner-Webb (13-7, 5-2 Big South) with 14 assists that led directly to 32 points, though only two of those passes went to Hill. Tyrell Nelson and Adonis Burbage were the main beneficiaries of Strange’s orchestration, scoring 15 and 13 points, respectively, as Gardner-Webb shot .492 (31-of-63) from the field.

Behind their three-double figure scorers, the Runnin’ Bulldogs withstood Longwood junior guard Leron Fisher, who scored a team-high 25 points on a career-high 12 field goals and five three-pointers. It was the second 20-point game of the season for Fisher, who added a team-high five assists and four steals.

“Leron was terrific,” Gee said. “He was trying his best to pick Quincy up. As a matter of fact, when Quincy went out Leron told him he had his back. He played with a lot of energy and a lot of fire, and he’s been doing that.”

Unfortunately Fisher’s performance came on an off-night for Taylor, whose chipped tooth Gee estimates sapped some of his typical on-court flare. Taylor entered the game on a Big South-leading streak of 15 consecutive scoring games but saw that run come to an end with just five points Thursday. Taylor attempted a season-low six field goals and joined Longwood’s second-leading scorer Shaquille Johnson in ending up on the wrong side of the injury bug that has begun to prey on Longwood.

“I think the injury probably bothered [Taylor] than he let on,” Gee said. “I think that took him out somewhat mentally. [Johnson] ended up with a groin injury and I was thinking about not playing him, but he begged me and I put him back in. I’m not sure how that held him back, but he still found a way to score 19.”

Despite the injuries and the absence of interior presence Lotanna Nwogbo who is out with a thumb injury, Longwood battled to within two points with under nine minutes remaining. That 58-56 deficit would be as close Longwood would get to knotting the score, however, as a pair of untimely turnovers gave Gardner-Webb all the momentum they needed.

“We had opportunities to get back, and we just didn’t,” Gee said. “The biggest key was Gardner-Webb had 15 offensive rebounds, and we gave them 53 percent in the second half. That team just finished blowing Coastal Carolina out, and you can’t do that against a good team like that.”

Longwood will get a much-needed break from game action with the next matchup not slated until Wednesday, Jan. 28. That will be a home contest against Big South leading scorer Andrew Rowsey and his UNC Asheville Bulldogs in Willett Hall at 7 p.m. on the Big South Network.

“We just need to get away for a couple days, regroup and get ready for UNC Asheville on Wednesday,” Gee said. “I just told the guys we need the time off. This is a good break for us. We’ll come back to our house, regroup and find a way to get it done at our house and get guys healthy.”

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