Site: Radford, Va. (Dedmon Center)
Score: Radford 73, High Point 62
Records: RU (6-7, 1-0 Big South), HPU (3-11. 0-1 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Wednesday, Jan. 4 — vs Winthrop (Millis Center) 7 p.m.
RADFORD, Va. – The High Point University men’s basketball team was unable to hold on to a second half lead in a 73-62 deficit to Radford in the Big South Conference season opener on Saturday (Jan. 4) evening.
“I thought we had a good game plan tonight, but we just weren’t able to hit shots in the second half,” said head coach Tubby Smith. “Carlik Jones (Big South Preseason Player of the Year) is a really talented player and he really took over the game for them (Radford) in the second half (26 total points), making two shot clock buzzer-beaters.”
Trailing by five at halftime, HPU kicked off the second half with a bang when redshirt sophomore Caden Sanchez scored a pair of layups in the paint then earned a steal in the defensive end that was followed up in the play with a fast-break layup by freshman John-Michael Wright. The 6-0 run to start the period gave the Panthers their second lead of the evening that led to a tightly contested five minutes that saw four lead changes.
“We had a flurry of turnovers to end the first half, but we bounced back,” added Smith. “We took the lead in the second half and did some good things. It was a matter of us finishing at the basket, being stronger with the ball, and did good on the boards. But it was the turnovers that really hurt us.”
Radford opened the game with a quick 5-0 lead before HPU went on a 5-0 run of its own to take a 12-11 lead at the 14:03 mark, thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Curtis Holland III. The sophomore guard finished the opening stanza with a team-leading 11 points while going 3-4 from beyond the arc.
The Highlanders led by as many as eight with 4:40 left in the first half before HPU cut the deficit to one after a drive-up layup from the top of the key by freshman Eric Coleman Jr., who completed the and-one play from the charity stripe.
Radford went on a 13-0 run midway through the second period to take a 12-point lead (63-51) and would lead by as many as 15 points with 2:45 remaining on the clock.
The Panthers cut the deficit to single digits with just over a minute left in regulation by a pair of free throws by freshman Bryant Randleman and a three-pointer by senior Jamal Wright, but the comeback bid would ultimately fall short.
Holland finished with a team-leading 15 points, returning to the lineup after sitting out last week’s contest at Texas. He has scored double digits in his last nine games. Coleman scored 10 points while leading the team with five rebounds.
The Panthers will return to the Millis Center on Wednesday (Jan. 8) for their Big South Conference home opener when they host Winthrop at 7 p.m.