High Point and UNC Asheville MBB battle for first Wednesday

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team (12-6, 5-2) takes on UNC Asheville (13-6, 6-1) Wednesday in a battle for first place inside the Millis Center. With a victory, HPU (12-6, 5-2) can move back into the top spot in the Big South standings.

Tip-off between the Panthers and Bulldogs is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on the Big South Network, featuring commentary from Sean Hamilton and Collin Giuliani. In addition, 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.

• Last time out, HPU dropped a 71-68 contest to Coastal Carolina on Saturday in the Millis Center. It marked the first home loss for the Panthers in close to a year and snapped a 12-game home winning streak. HPU is 28-3 (.903) in its last 31 home games.
• HPU is 10-4 in games following a loss since the start of the 2014-15 season. The Panthers are 3-2 this season.
• Through its first five Big South games (5-0), the Panthers shot 52.5 percent from the field and 53.9 percent from 3-point range. Over the past two contests (0-2), HPU is shooting 36.8 percent overall and 25 percent from long distance.
• In Saturday’s game vs. the Chanticleers, senior Adam Weary led HPU with a season-high 19 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. With his 1,078 career points, Weary is now up to 24th on the all-time HPU scoring list. Weary (257 career assists) also needs just four assists to move into sixth-place in HPU annals.
• Redshirt-senior John Brown chipped in 18 points (6-9 FG), five rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the game.
• Brown is the only player in Big South history to record at least 2,000 points, 700 rebounds, 150 blocks, 150 steals and 150 assists in a career.
• With a victory over UNCA, head coach Scott Cherry would move into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time Big South wins list.
• High Point leads the Big South in scoring margin (+9.9), free throw percentage (.738), 3-point field goal percentage (.413), assists (16.5 apg), turnover margin (+5.2) and assist/turnover ratio (1.58).

UNC Asheville was picked to finish seventh in the Big South preseason poll, but has far exceeded expectations this season. The Bulldogs posted a 7-5 non-conference record (including a win at Georgetown) and have won six of their first seven conference games to currently sit in first place. UNCA is coming off a 75-69 win vs. Gardner-Webb on Saturday. The Bulldogs rank ninth in the country in 3-point field goal defense (.285) and rank in the top-20 nationally in both free throws made and free throws attempted.

Five Bulldogs average at least 10 points per game. The group is includes a pair of Big South All-Freshman candidates, including leading scorer Dylan Smith (1.3.2 ppg) who is shooting 39.7 percent (46-116) from 3-point range. Dwayne Sutton is averaging 11.2 ppg during his rookie campaign and ranks fourth in the conference in rebounding (7.7 rpg). Sophomore Kevin Vannatta chips in 12.4 ppg and a team-high 2.6 assists/contest, while fellow sophomore Ahmad Thomas (10.6 ppg) and Sam Hughes (10.3 ppg) provide complimentary scoring for the Bulldogs.

Wednesday’s matchup vs. UNC Asheville will mark the 48th all-time meeting between the Panthers and Bulldogs. UNCA holds a 27-20 edge in the all-time series, although HPU has won the last three meetings (Asheville had won the previous six). The teams first met on Dec. 2, 1967, with HPU grabbing a 94-82 win in High Point. The Panthers swept a pair of contests last season. HPU cruised past the Bulldogs, 72-51, on Jan. 24 in High Point, then edged the Bulldogs 75-71 in Kimmel Arena to pick up the program’s first win in Asheville since 2007.

High Point has complied a 324-269 (.546) record all-time against Div. I programs hailing from the Tar Heel State. HPU’s most common opponents are Elon (86-76, .531), Appalachian State (60-36, .625) and Western Carolina (40-22, .645). The majority of those meetings came during the NAIA era. High Point is 76-70 (.521) against Big South programs from North Carolina and 249-199 (.556) against the rest of the state’s Div. I teams. HPU is 3-1 this season, with victories over Western Carolina (75-69), UNCG (90-72 ) and at Gardner-Webb (66-64). The Panthers fell at NC State, 73-70.

High Point hits the road for a (potentially) snowy Saturday showdown with Liberty in Lynchburg. Tip-off between the Panthers and Flames is set for noon. The game will be televised on the American Sports Network.