Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: Valparaiso 87, High Point 72
Records: HPU (2-9, 0-0 Big South), VU (7-5, 0-0 MVC),
Next HPU Event: Saturday, Dec. 21 – vs Belmont Abbey (Millis Center), 7 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team was unable to hold on to a first half lead and fell to Valparaiso 87-72 on Wednesday (Dec. 18) night at the Mills Center. Freshman John-Michael Wright scored a career-high 25 points in the setback.
“Once again it was a tale of two halves,” said head coach Tubby Smith. “We did not defend in the second half like we did in the first half and we did not shoot the ball as well either. They picked up their intensity in the second half and we didn’t. We worked so hard but when you keep giving the ball to them it is hard to overcome.”
Sophomore Curtis Holland III got the scoring started in the first minute for HPU with a three-pointer from downtown before Valpo went on a 10-0 run to take an early nine-point lead.
Holland went on to score HPU’s first ten points, with nine of the team’s 15 points coming from beyond the arc. The Panthers proceeded to take their first lead of the night at the 10:05 mark of the first half with a John-Michael Wright three-pointer.
HPU led 42-39 at halftime led by John-Michael Wright’s game-high 16 points, while the team shot 60 percent from downtown (6-10) and 63 percent from the floor (17-27).
The two teams traded baskets back-and-forth early in the second half before Valpo took the lead four minutes in and never relinquished it. The Crusaders would jump out to as many as 17 points thanks in part to 16 points by Javon Freeman-Liberty in the second half and shooting 58.1 percent from the field (18-31).
John-Michel Wright added to his impressive freshman campaign and is now tied with Holland with a team-leading 13.5 points per game average. He has recorded double-digit scoring eight out of his first 11 games.
“He (John-Michael Wright) is the real deal and the reason he is like that is because he works at it,” added Smith. “He works so hard in practice and is one of the hardest working players we have had here since I took over. He does what he is told, he is a constant warrior, and he is competitive. What you see in the game is what he does in practice.”
Holland finished with 16 points and has now scored double digits in seven straight games.
The Panthers will return to Millis on Saturday (Dec. 21) for its final game at Millis of the decade when they host Belmont Abbey at 2 p.m.