HPU men’s basketball falls to Winthrop on buzzer beater in Big South quarterfinals

HPU men’s basketball falls to Winthrop on buzzer beater in Big South quarterfinals

CONWAY, S.C. — Adam Weary hit a shot to give the High Point University men’s basketball team a 60-59 lead with 5.2 seconds on the clock, but Andre Smith hit a last-second three-pointer to lift Winthrop to a 62-60 win in the Big South Tournament quarterfinals on Friday at the HTC Center in Conway, S.C.

High Point got the ball back with 0.5 on the clock and Derrell Edwards inbounded the ball to John Brown, but Brown’s outside attempt came after the buzzer.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “Our kids did what they needed to do to win. Adam hit the shot. The team got back on defense. But give Winthrop credit for hitting the last shot.”

High Point will play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) for the first time after winning the Big South regular season outright. High Point fell to 16-14 overall while Winthrop improved to 19-12 overall.

Brown led High Point with 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks. He scored 13 points in the second half. Weary came off the bench to score nine points, including a key three-pointer and HPU’s last shot.

Winthrop’s Keon Moore led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Smith scored 12 points, including the last three-pointer.

“They were prepared for this game and I knew it was going to be physical,” said Brown. “Once the ball left his hand, there’s nothing we can do about it. Now we’ve got to get ready to play with even more competitiveness in the NIT.”

High Point got within a point twice in the last two minutes before finally taking the lead. Junior guard Devante Wallace swished a three-pointer to make it 57-56 with 1:22 on the clock. After Winthrop’s Smith missed a shot, Larry Brown got the rebound and Moore hit a jumper to make it a three-point game again. High Point got back within a point (59-58) when John Brown made two free throws with 28 seconds remaining.

Winthrop used two timeouts in the last 28 seconds and the Panthers fouled twice. Smith went to the line for a one-and-one and missed the first shot. Wallace got the rebound and, after a timeout, Weary scored on a jumper in the paint with 5.2 on the clock to give HPU a 60-59 lead. Winthrop came right back down the court and Smith hit a three-pointer with a hand in his face with 0.5 on the clock for the win.

The game was close the whole way. Winthrop’s largest lead was five points (38-33) when Joab Jerome hit two free throws with 12:06 left in the game. High Point hit the next three shots to take a 40-39 lead with 10:24 on the clock. That was the first of four lead changes in the final 10:33.

Winthrop led for most of the first half and took a 24-23 lead into halftime. High Point trailed 17-13 with 8:39 left in the first half and scored the next five points to take an 18-17 lead. It was tight the rest of the way. A layup attempt by HPU’s Lorenzo Cugini rolled off the rim at the halftime buzzer.

High Point won 12 of its last 14 games in the regular season and finished 12-4 in Big South play. Winthrop entered the tournament with a 10-6 league record.

The NIT will be the most prestigious postseason tournament that High Point has ever played in. HPU moved up to NCAA Div. I in 1999-2000 and made its first postseason appearance last year in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The first round of the NIT is March 18 and 19 at campus sites.

Jon Litchfield