KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The High Point University men’s basketball team turned a 14-point first-half deficit into a four-point second-half lead, but took a 54-53 loss in the closing seconds to Western Michigan on Thursday night at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich. Freshman Adam Weary led the Panthers with 11 points.
A free throw by redshirt-freshman John Brown gave High Point a 53-52 lead with 2:28 remaining. That stood until the final minute, when HPU’s Weary missed a jumper and Western Michigan’s Shayne Whittington snagged the rebound with 21 seconds to play. After a WMU timeout, Bronco guard Austin Richie dribbled the ball around and hit a reverse layup to give Western Michigan the 54-53 lead with 5.3 seconds on the clock. High Point guard Dejuan McGaughy raced down the court but his buzzer-beating attempt hit the side of the backboard.
The Panthers had trailed by 14 in the first half and 12 at halftime before coming back to lead by four (45-41) with 10 minutes to play.
“I’m proud of the way my guys responded in the second half, we just needed one more play,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “We gave ourselves a chance to win on the road and that’s what you want. In the end we needed to make one more shot. That kid (Richie) made a heck of a play.
“Our guys are hurting after this one. We have winners in that locker room and they wanted this one bad.”
Weary’s 11 points led four HPU scorers in double figures. Brown, graduate student Allan Chaney and freshman Lorenzo Cugini each scored 10. Chaney grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and Cugini hit two huge three-pointers in the second half.
Brandon Pokley scored 12 points and Darius Paul scored 10 to lead Western Michigan. Richie scored seven points with four assists. Whittington had a game-high 10 rebounds along with two blocks. Nate Hutcheson scored nine points and had three blocks, all in the second half.
After High Point took an early 6-5 lead, Western Michigan went on a 13-2 run, starting with a three-pointer by Pokley trey and finishing with a Paul jumper, to take an 18-8 lead. After four HPU points, a nice hook shot by Whittington started a 12-5 run and the Broncos largest lead was 14 (33-19) with 2:19 to go in the first half. A Cugini jumper in the last minute of the half made it 33-21 at the break.
Brown hit a layup to start the second half and ignite a 9-2 run that got the Panthers within five (35-30). Hutcheson hit a three-pointer, but the momentum was still going in the Panthers’ direction as another 9-1 run put HPU on top, 43-39. Cugini hit two three-pointers, McGaughy drove to the basket and Weary hit a three during the run.
It was back-and-forth the rest of the way, with three tie scores and three lead changes in the final 10 minutes. Brown hit a jumper to make it 45-41 with 10:09 remaining and Hutcheson followed with a three-pointer.
The Broncos took a five-point lead when Whittington blocked a Haiishen McIntyre attempt and turned it around for a Pokley trey. The Panthers answered with five in a row on a Chaney jumper and a three-point play by McGaughy, tying it at 52-52. High Point got the ball back and Brown hit a 1-of-2 free throws with 2:28 to go, setting up the last-minute finish.
High Point’s record evened out at 3-3 while Western Michigan improved to 5-1.
High Point is back at home on Sunday when the Panthers host Johnson & Wales at 3 p.m. at the Millis Center.