LYNCHBURG, Va. — Sophomore Adam Weary scored 22 points and redshirt-sophomore John Brown scored 21 to lead the High Point University men’s basketball team to a 76-70 win over Liberty on Saturday night at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va. The Panthers improved to 2-2 in league play.
“The two keys were taking care of the basketball and holding them to six offensive rebounds,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “Our kids were awesome tonight. Weary was great down the stretch and John Brown was a warrior. We have guys stepping up for injured players. Liberty shot 61 percent but we got timely stops. We’re getting better. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting better.”
The Panthers got 71 points from four players: Weary (22), Brown (21), junior guard Devante Wallace (16) and sophomore forward Lorenzo Cugini (12). Wallace went 4-for-6 from three-point range and Cugini went 3-for-4. Freshman point guard Jorge Perez-Laham had six assists with just one turnover.
The Flames were led by Andrew Smith, who scored 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Davon Marshall went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and scored 12 points. Tomasz Gielo also scored 12. Liberty shot 61.0 percent from the floor and 63.6 percent (7-for-11) from beyond the arc.
High Point improved to 6-11 overall and 2-2 in the Big South while Liberty dropped to 8-11 overall and 2-2 in league play. It was the Panthers’ second win in a row.
The Panthers had trailed by 10 (26-16) in the first half when Joe Retic and Casey Roberts hit consecutive three-pointers as part of an 11-2 run, but HPU battled back to take the lead. Down 30-23, Wallace drained both free throws and the Panthers went to score the next 10 points. HPU tied the game when Weary handed the ball off to Cugini, who hit a three-pointer. The Panthers took a 33-30 lead on Wallace’s third trey. Liberty’s Antwan Burrus scored the last four points of the half to build a 34-33 lead at the break.
The Panthers came out on fire in the second half, scoring the first 12 points to build a lead they would never relinquish. Weary scored the first four points before Brown scored the next eight, including a pair of three-point plays, to make it 45-34. That was the Panthers’ largest lead as Liberty came back with the next eight points in a row – five from Smith before a trey from Gielo.
HPU went on to lead by nine twice – 51-42 and 62-53 – before the Flames cut it down in the closing minutes. After Cugini hit a three-pointer, Liberty got a pair of free throws from Gielo and a layup from Smith to make it 62-57. With 2:50 remaining, Marshall finished off a three-point play to make it 66-62 and the Flames got it within two (68-66) on a Marshall three-pointer with 1:40 to go.
The teams went back and forth in the closing minutes as the Panthers’ lead floated between 2-4 points. Leading 70-68, Weary came from the back court to hit a key layup that put the Panthers ahead by four with 14 seconds on the clock. Both teams hit a pair of free throws and Liberty had the ball with seven seconds remaining. Senior guard Derrell Edwards was able to get a steal and hit two free throws to make the final 76-70.
High Point forced 18 Liberty turnovers and scored 27 points off those turnovers.
The Panthers are back in action with two Big South games next week. HPU plays at VMI on Wednesday and hosts UNC Asheville on Saturday. Both games begin at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game will be Richard Childress Racing Night at the Millis Center with Richard Childress and Austin and Ty Dillon in attendance. The first 250 fans can get autographs from all three.