HPU and Winthrop MBB battle for first Thursday on ESPNU

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team (18-9, 11-5) hosts a critical Senior Night battle for first place in the Big South Thursday when the Panthers welcome rival Winthrop (20-7, 12-4) to the Millis Center.

Tip-off between the Panthers and Eagles is set for 9 p.m. The senior ceremony honoring John Brown, Adam Weary, Haiishen McIntyre and Lorenzo Cugini begins at 8:35 p.m.

Thursday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPNU and feature commentary from Kevin Fitzgerald and Adrian Branch. In additon, Evan Lepler and Stafford Stephenson will call the game on the High Point Panthers Radio Network, with pre-game coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m.

• The Panthers currently sit in secomd place in the Big South and are a game out of first place. With a win Thursday, HPU would move into a tie with Winthrop for the league lead.

• Last time out, HPU won its fourth-straight game with a 75-72, overtime victory at Radford Saturday. With HPU trailing 66-63 in regulation, Anthony Lindauer nailed a 3-pointer with five seconds left to send the game to OT. HPU was +3 (9-6) in OT.

• The win moved HPU to 6-2 on the road in league play and tied the program’s Div. I record for league road wins, set originally by last season’s team. HPU has won four straight road games.

• The Panthers held a 41-17 edge in bench scoring at Radford. After being outscored 115-36 over a four-game span by opponent reserves from Jan. 23-Feb. 6, the Panther bench is +70 (125-55) over the past four contests.

• Redshirt-junior Miles Bowman Jr. posted career highs in points (17), minutes (27) and field goals made (7) in the win. He scored four of HPU’s nine points in OT. He is averaging 8.3 points, 16.8 minute and shooting 73.7 percent over the past four games.

• Bowman’s game-by-game minute progression since returning from injury on Jan. 9: 2,2,2,8,2,2,7,12,21,27; Scoring progression: 0,0,0,2,0,0,4,6,6,17

• John Brown added 18 points and four steals at RU while Adam Weary reached double figures for the eighth-straight game with 10 points.

• Brown has made 511 free throws in his HPU career. With three more, he will become the Big South’s all-time leader in that category, passing Radford’s Whit Holcomb-Faye (513, 2002-06).

• HPU’s senior quartet of Brown, Weary, Cugini and Haiishen McIntyre will graduate as the program’s all-time winningest Div. I class. The group has won 74 games over four years.

High Point is one game back of first place in the Big South standings with two games to go. HPU has one home game and one road contest remaining. Here’s a look at the schedules of the six Big South teams in or within three games of first place and the combined conference winning percentage of their remaining opponents.

Winthrop (12-4): at High Point, at Campbell (.500)
High Point (11-5): vs. Winthrop, at Presbyterian (.500)
UNC Asheville (11-5): vs. Liberty, vs. Coastal Carolina (.594)
Coastal Carolina (10-6): vs. Charleston Southern, at UNC Asheville (.485)
Gardner-Webb (10-7): at Liberty (.563)
Liberty (9-7): at UNC Asheville, vs. Gardner-Webb (.594)

During HPU’s current four-game winning streak, head coach Scott Cherry has tinkered with his rotation and the changes have paid off. Sophomore Austin White has started in place of Anthony Lindauer during the past three games and averaged 19.3 minutes/game after seeing 13.0 minutes of action over the first 23 games. In addition, Andre Fox (12.9 mpg, 4.5 ppg), Ricky Madison (8.0 mpg, 3.4 ppg) and Miles Bowman Jr. (3.0 mpg, 0.3 ppg) saw limited minutes over the first 23 games. That trio has been critical during the 4-0 streak, with Fox (26.3 mpg, 9.8 ppg), Madison (12.5 mpg, 5.0 ppg) and Bowman Jr. (16.8 mpg, 8.3 ppg) all significantly increasing their production during the stretch.

A LOOK AT THE EAGLES (20-7, 11-5)
Winthrop was picked to finish third in the 2015-16 Big South preseason poll and is currently first in the league with two games to play. The Eagles have won 10 of their past 11 league games. WU is led by junior guard Keon Johnson, who averages 19.6 points (20.0 ppg in BSC play) and ranks second in the conference in 3-point shooting (.412). Graduate transfer Jimmy Gavin chips in 17.4 points per game, leads the team in assists (2.96 apg) and is third in the league in 3-point percentage (.410). Sophomore Xavier Cooks leads the team in rebounding (6.8 rpg) and adds 14.7 ppg, while redshirt-sophomore Duby Okeke is 18th in the country in blocks/game (2.54).

Thursday’s matchup with Winthrop will mark the 39th 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 of the last five meetings being decided by three points or less. Winthrop leads the all-time series 26-12. The Eagles won 19 of the first 20 games between the schools from 1999-2007, but HPU has captured seven of the past nine meetings (2011-15). The Eagles cruised to an 86-66 victory in the first meeting between the teams this season in Rock Hill. John Brown posted a team-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting and has averaged 30.7 points per game in his last three games vs. the Eagles.

High Point wraps up the regular season Saturday with a trip to Presbyterian. Tip-off in Clinton, S.C., between the Panthers and Blue Hose is set for 4:30 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the Big South Network.