Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: High Point 70, Elon 66
Records: HPU (2-7, 0-0 Big South), EU (3-7, 0-0 CAA)
Next HPU Event: Saturday, Dec. 14 — at FAU (Boca Raton, Fla.), 4 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team made a season-high 10 three pointers en route to a 70-66 overtime victory over Elon in front of a sold-out Millis Center on Thursday (Dec. 5) evening.
Six Panthers hit from deep in a back-and-forth contest that saw 13 lead changes. Freshman John-Michael Wright led the way for the Panthers, scoring a career-high 20 points while redshirt junior Cliff Thomas Jr. recorded a season-high 12 points, including the eventual game winner. He also grabbed six rebounds and had two critical blocks down the stretch of the game.
“It was a heck of a win for us,” said head coach Tubby Smith. “I have to compliment Elon for their ability to knock down shots, they really had us back on our heels to start the game. Our guys showed a lot of courage, a lot of toughness, and we didn’t quit. We stayed in there and certainly Cliff was a huge part of the win tonight.”
Freshmen got the scoring started for the Panthers with a layup from Bryant Randleman followed by a three-pointer from Wright. Neither team could get much going in the first 10 minutes of play, but back-to-back three pointers from Wright and sophomore Caden Sanchez cut the Elon lead to 14-13 with just under seven minutes to play in the half.
A steal and layup from Wright in the midst of a 13-0 run gave High Point its first lead of the evening at 15-14 just a minute later. During this run, the Panthers defense held the Phoenix scoreless for eight minutes and twenty-two seconds of play. High Point recorded four steals in the first half and forced eight Elon turnovers.
Consecutive three-pointers from Elon tied the game at 20 with three minutes remaining in the half. A Denny Slay II three-pointer put High Point back on top 23-21 with just over a minute left in the half. Senior Jamal Wright got in on the three-point action to give High Point the 26-24 lead heading into halftime. The Panthers finished 6-15 from behind the arc in the first half, three of which came from John-Michael Wright, who finished the half a perfect 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from deep for 11 points.
Elon opened the second half on a 7-1 run, but an electric dunk from Thomas Jr. got the crowd going in the second half and cut the lead to two at 31-29 with just over 15 minutes left in the contest. A Jamal Wright three-pointer tied the game back up at 32 before back-to-back Elon threes put the Phoenix back on top, 39-34. Sophomore Rob Peterson III hit a three to make the score 44-40 before Elon went on a 7-0 run in just over a minute to extend its lead to 51-40 with under 10 minutes left in the game.
A 6-0 run with buckets from Thomas Jr. and John Michael Wright got High Point back into it, cutting the deficit to 53-47 with five minutes remaining in the contest. The Panthers eighth three-pointer of the evening from Holland III followed by an emphatic block from Thomas Jr. got the crowd back on their feet at the under-four media timeout with High Point trailing by just five points, 55-50.
John Michael Wright’s fourth three-pointer of the contest, good enough for his career high, cut the deficit to two before a pair of Holland III free throws tied the game at 55 apiece with under two minutes to play. The teams then traded three-pointers and a Holland III deep ball tied the game at 58 with 5.8 second left in the game to send it to overtime.
The extra five minutes proved to be as exciting as the first 40 with both teams going back and forth trading buckets. High Point found itself down 66-64 and this time it was Thomas Jr. who tied the game for the Panthers before scoring the go-ahead bucket just moments later to put High Point ahead 68-66 with 38.4 seconds left in overtime. A pair of free throws from Slay II sealed the deal to give High Point the 70-66 victory.
High Point will head back to Florida when it travels to Boca Raton to take on FAU on Saturday, Dec. 14. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.