• The win in front of a sellout crowd moved HPU into a three-way tie for first place with Winthrop and UNC Asheville
• Senior Adam Weary posted a team-high 24 points and eight assists
• Redshirt-junior Miles Bowman Jr. registered his first career double-double (15 pts, 11 reb)
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team (19-9, 12-5) sent a raucous Millis Center crowd home happy with a thrilling 87-85 victory over Winthrop (20-8, 12-5) Thursday in front of a national television audience.
Winthrop entered the game winners of nine of its last 10 games, but the Panthers claimed the gutsy win on the strength of an outstanding offensive effort and key defensive stands down the stretch.
“Wow. This was an awesome, awesome basketball game with both teams playing extremely hard and making plays,” head coach Scott Cherry said. “Our guys fought like crazy and played as hard as they could against an outstanding basketball team. I’m happy for our four seniors that they get to go out on that note.”
With the victory, High Point moves into a three-way tie with UNC Asheville and Winthrop for first place in the Big South standings. The Panthers own the tiebreaker over both teams. With a win over Presbyterian Saturday, the Panthers would clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big South Championship and earn at least a share of the Big South title for the fourth-straight season.
High Point shot an incredible 66.7 percent (22-33) in the first half to build a 47-42 lead at the break.
Redshirt-senior John Brown was unstoppable during the half, posting 19 points 9-of-11 shooting while claiming four steals. At one point he scored on five consecutive possessions, before leaving the court with a foot injury at the 4:45 mark. He will be evaluated tomorrow by medical personnel.
In Brown’s absence, the Panthers shot 39 percent in the second half, but also cooled a Winthrop team down that shot 59.3 percent in the opening stanza. The Eagles were at 51.7 percent in the second stanza but hit just 2-of-9 3-point attempts (.222) after connecting on 8-of-12 (.667) in the first.
Senior Adam Weary posted 10 of his team-high 24 points in the second half to go along with eight assists and just two turnovers. The Memphis product made 10-of-16 field goal attempts and converted a number of key buckets down the stretch to end his Senior Night in grand fashion.
Redshirt-junior Miles Bowman Jr. continued his torrid play of late with a monster performance inside for the Purple & White. Bowman notched 13 of his 15 points in the second half and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to post the first double-double of his HPU career.
Bowman pulled down a critical six offensive boards, just two less than the entire Winthrop team.
Senior Lorenzo Cugini chipped in 10 points (4-10 FG) in 27 minutes on the floor.
The Panthers moved the ball incredible well all night and at one point in the second half had 18 assists and just one turnover. HPU finished with 22 assists and scored an impressive 54 of its 87 points in the paint.
The Panthers blitzed the Eagles out of the gate, making their first six shots to build a 13-4 edge at the 16:18 mark of the opening half. Winthrop answered with a 12-3 spurt to tie the game at 16, but Brown’s NBA Jam-esque 5-for-5 sequence put HPU back up seven (34-27) with 7:17 to go in the half.
Brown hit two more jumpers to put the Panthers up nine (38-29), but after he left with the injury, Winthrop got back within four (38-34) with 3:45 left in the half. The Panthers built the edge back to seven (46-39) on a jumper from Weary with 1:24 left and took a 47-42 lead into the break.
HPU scored 15 of the first 20 points of the second half and built a 62-47 advantage at the 16-minute mark of the stanza. Winthrop answered with a 13-2 run to cut the lead to four (64-60), but HPU continued to score the basketball with authority and went back up 10 (78-68) on an acrobatic AND1 from Weary with 8:18 left.
Winthrop again surged back, using a 14-2 run to claim its first lead (82-80) with 3:25 remaining.
But Weary came up huge just 30 seconds later, nailing a triple to give the Panthers a lead (83-82) it would not relinquish.
Two free throws from Bowman put HPU up two (85-83) and a lay-in from Weary brought the crowd to its feet and extended the edge to four (87-83) with 1:43 to go.
Winthrop cut it to two (87-85) with 1:08 left and drew an offensive foul on Weary after an HPU defensive stand to get the ball with four secnds left. But Winthrop’s last possession up short and HPU came away with the thrilling win.
“The crowd was unbelievable tonight – probably the best in my seven years here,” Cherry said. “I give our fans so much credit, because they carried our guys when we hit a wall in the second half. They carried us with their energy and their support. Thank you.”
With the victory, the Panthers become the first team in conference history to win 12 Big South games in four consecutive seasons.
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.