CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The High Point University men’s basketball team was within a point with 31 seconds on the clock, but UT-Chattanooga hit its last six free throws to take a 68-61 win over HPU in the first round of the Dr. Pepper Classic on Friday night at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tenn. Redshirt-freshman John Brown scored 23 points and hauled in 16 rebounds.
“We were within a couple of plays at the end, we gave ourselves a chance to win,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “Nobody in that locker room is OK with loosing but we don’t have time to worry about it. We’re doing some good things, we didn’t have our second leading scorer and top rebounder (Allan Chaney) but we got Devante Wallace back and he hit three threes. We’ll get ready to come back and play Austin Peay tomorrow.”
The 16 rebounds were a career high for Brown, who registered his third double-double in the last four games. Freshman guard Adam Weary went 6-for-10 from the floor with season highs of 15 points and four steals. Wallace scored 13 points in his first game of the season and freshman Lorenzo Cugini had season highs of 12 rebounds and five assists. Chaney missed the game with an illness.
Chattanooga was led by guard Ronrico White, who scored 21 points and went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line. Z. Mason (15 points, nine rebounds) and Gee McGhee (12 points) were also in double figures.
High Point fell to 4-7 while Chattanooga improved to 4-8.
Defense dominated early, the teams combining to shoot just 2-for-12 in the first four minutes. Brown already had five rebounds by the first official timeout. Both teams started to heat up thereafter, combining to go 10-for-20 in the next four minutes.
Later in the half, White hit consecutive baskets to put the Mocs ahead, 18-15, before Brown went on a run. He scored the next eight HPU points, countered only by a Sam Watson layup, to make it 23-20 and put the Panthers ahead for the rest of the first half. Weary scored the Panthers’ last seven points in the first half: he had a three-point play, hit a long jumper and a layup to make it 32-30 at the break.
Two huge runs started the second half: Chattanooga scored the first 13 points before High Point scored the next 14, making it 46-43 on a Corey Law jumper with 10:43 remaining. Wallace hit two three-pointers on HPU’s run. Chattanooga strung together a layup by Drazen Zlovaric and a jumper by Mason to retake the lead, and the lead changed five times in a span of 2:20.
After the Mocs’ White hit a trey to make it 52-50 with 7:22 on the clock, Brown sunk two free throws to tie the game. Chattanooga’s Mason countered with a jumper on the next possession and, despite the Panthers’ challenges, UTC led the rest of the way.
White hit a trey and drew a foul, sinking the free-throw for a four-point play that made it 58-52 with 4:37 on the clock. The Panthers were back within two (60-58) when Weary slashed in for a layup. They were within a point (62-61) on a Wallace trey from the corner with 31 seconds to go. After White hit two free throws, Wallace took a strongly contested three-point attempt that went off the front of the rim. The Mocs hit their last four free throws to seal it.
HPU outrebounded Chattanooga, 45-32, in the game but the Mocs shot 45.8 percent (11-for-24) from the floor and 73.7 percent (14-for-19) from the line in the second half to pull out the win.
High Point plays Austin Peay in the consolation game of the 23rd Dr. Pepper Classic on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at McKenzie Arena. The Panthers have never faced the Governors.