High Point and Winthrop Renew MBB Rivalry Thursday on ESPNU

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team (12-4, 5-0) renews its rivalry with Winthrop (10-6, 2-3) Thursday in a nationally televised game inside Winthrop Coliseum.

Tip-off between the Panthers and Eagles is set for 7 p.m. Thursday’s game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU, featuring commentary from Kevin Fitzgerald (play-by-play) and Adrian Branch (color commentary). In additon, Evan Lepler and Stafford Stephenson will call the game on the High Point Panthers Radio Network, with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m.

• The last four games between High Point and Winthrop have been decided by a total of seven points.

• The Panthers have started the season 2-0 in Big South road games for the second straight campaign. HPU set a new program record for BSC road wins in 2014-15 (6).

• HPU has won 10 of its past 13 Big South road games (.763).

• With a victory Thursday, HPU will match its best ever start to conference play (6-0, set in 2006-07).

• Last time out, HPU won its 12th straight home game with an 82-66 victory over Presbyterian Saturday. The Panthers shot a season-best 62 percent from the field, its best mark against a DI opponent since a January 2007 meeting with VMI (.630).

• The Panthers distributed 25 assists on 31 field goals against the Blue Hose, marking the most assists vs. a DI team since a Feb. 2014 game vs. Longwood (26).

• HPU shot a season-high 62.5 percent (10-16) from 3-point range vs. PC and is 18-31 (.581) in the last two games from deep.

• Redshirt-senior John Brown led HPU vs. PC with 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks while pitching in three steals and three assists. Senior Lorenzo Cugini added 12 points and made 4-of-5 3-point attempts.

• Haiishen McIntyre tallied six assists vs. PC and now leads the Big South in overall A/TO ratio (2.78) and assists/game in conference play (4.80).

HPU sports the 13th-most experienced team in the nation in 2015-16, with Panther players averaging 2.34 years on the roster. High Point has started four seniors for the majority of 2015-16 and relies significantly on three juniors for the remainder of the team’s production this season.

HPU leads the Big South and is ninth nationally with a +5.0 turnover margin this season. The Panthers turn the ball over on just 15.9 percent of their possessions, and that ranks 37th nationally. On the other end of the floor, HPU forces a turnover on 21.9 percent of its opponent’s possessions, and that number also is 37th nationally.

In three of the past five years, a High Point University player has ranked in the top-2 of the nation in 3-point field goal percentage. Lorenzo Cugini leads the country this season (.606), while Devante Wallace was second nationally in 2013-14 (.491). Nick Barbour led the country in 3-point field goal percentage (.484) and was No. 2 in 3-pointers made/game (3.48) during his senior campaign in 2011-12.

Winthrop was picked to finish third in the 2015-16 Big South preseason poll and the Eagles currently sit t-4th with a 2-3 league mark. Winthrop earned wins at Charleston Southern (83-82) and vs. Presbyterian (74-70), but has dropped its last three league games to Campbell (90-83), Coastal Carolina (82-63) and UNC Asheville (85-84). The Eagles posted an 8-3 non-conference record. WU is led by junior guard Keon Johnson, who is second in the Big South in scoring (20.0 ppg) and is 32nd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.443). Graduate transfer Jimmy Gavin chips in 16.6 points per game, is shooting 40.2 percent from deep and leads the team in assists (2.5). Sophomore Xavier Cooks leads the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg) and adds 12.9 ppg, while redshirt-sophomore Duby Okeke is 10th in the country in blocks/game (2.85).

Thursday’s matchup with Winthrop will mark the 38th all-time meeting between the Panthers and Eagles. The rivalry has become one of the best in the Big South in recent years, with the last four meetings being decided by a total of seven points. Winthrop leads the all-time series 25-12. The Eagles won 19 of the first 20 games between the schools from 1999-2007, but HPU has captured seven of the past eight meetings (2011-15). HPU won both games last season by a total of four points. The Panthers won in Rock Hill, 90-87, on Jan. 3 in double overtime, then captured the return game on Feb. 11 in High Point. John Brown averaged 33.5 points per game in the two games in 2014-15.

High Point recently wrapped up a three games in six days stretch with the Jan. 2 game at Charleston Southern. HPU earned wins over Methodist (96-50), Radford (77-60) and Charleston Southern (78-73) during the swing. HPU now plays just two games in 12 days. That duo of contests includes the game vs. Presbyterian (Jan. 9 – W, 82-66) and Thursday’s contest at Winthrop (Jan. 14) that will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU. HPU’s next three games at Winthrop, vs. Coastal Carolina (Jan. 16) and vs. UNC Asheville (Jan. 20) are all against conference championship contenders.

High Point returns to the Millis Center to battle Coastal Carolina on Saturday (7 p.m.). The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3, with pre-game coverage on the High Point Panthers Radio Network beginning at 6:30 p.m.