Site: Spartanburg, S.C. (Hodge Center)
Score: High Point 70, USC Upstate 62
Records: HPU (5-14. 2-4 Big South), USCU (7-12, 2-4 Big South),
Next HPU Event: Thursday, Jan. 23 — vs Gardner-Webb (Millis Center) 7 p.m.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Freshman John-Michael Wright scored a game-high 24 points in a 70-62 Big South Conference victory for High Point University men’s basketball over USC Upstate on Monday (Jan. 20) evening.
“We kept it close tonight, kept the lead and kept our poise,” said head coach Tubby Smith. “I thought our kids really battled tonight, especially Rob (Peterson), he really stepped up for us, and Denny (Slay). These type of games build character and I’m really glad for our guys.
Wright scored 14 points in the second half, where the Panthers shot 55.6 (5-9) from beyond the arc and 10-19 (52.6%) from the floor. The freshman guard finished tied for a career-high four three-pointers while shooting 57% (8-14) from the field.
“John-Michael Wright really played great and we had good play all around,” added Smith. “Guys look up to him and he’s a guy that’s a leader on and off the basketball court.”
High Point hit a pair of threes from John-Michael Wright and sophomore Rob Peterson III to take its first lead of the night (9-8) at 15:03 mark of the opening half. Wright followed up with a free throw and another three-pointer to extend the HPU lead to five that capped off a 7-0 run.
The Spartans went on a 5-0 run of their own to regain a one-point advantage before the teams would trade leads back-and-forth. High Point – thanks in part to shooting 41.7% (5-12) from beyond the arc – led by as many as six points (30-24) in the opening half and took a one-point lead into halftime.
The Panthers continued their impressive shooting from the perimeter to begin the second half, again getting back-to-back treys from John-Michael Wright and Peterson, that was a part of a 7-0 run to start the period. HPU led by as many as eight at the 18:10 mark of the second half after an Eric Coleman Jr. free throw.
“We had some good open looks tonight,” Smith added. “We shared the ball well and I thought the key tonight is that we did throw it inside early, and when we do that we are much more effective and made more shots.”
Thanks in part to a 7-1 run, USC Upstate brought the game within one-point (45-44) midway through the closing stanza, however, HPU continued to make shots and hit 15 of 18 free throw attempts in the second half to hold on to the lead and earn its second conference win.
Redshirt junior Denny Slay II continued his impressive play of late and tied his season high with 17 points off the bench. Peterson finished one point away from a double-double, scoring nine points with a career-high 12 rebounds.
High Point returns back to Millis Center on Thursday (Jan. 23) when it hosts Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m.