HPU WBB Panthers’ Late Surge Not Enough in Conference Opener

Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: UNC Asheville 63, High Point 54
Records: AVL 2-4 (1-0 Big South), HPU 2-4 (0-1 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Sunday, December 20 — vs. UNC Asheville (Millis Center, High Point, N.C.) 2 p.m.

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University women’s basketball team opened the conference portion of its schedule with a 63-54 loss to UNC Asheville on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 19). Junior Skyler Curran led the way in scoring and on the glass, dropping in 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

“Asheville came out with a lot of energy and I don’t know if we matched it at any point in the game so kudos to them. They were ready to play and they were excited for each other,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said following the loss. “Evans had quite the game [for Asheville] and she’s a good player. It’s going to take a team effort to stop a player like that and I don’t think we helped each other too much on the defensive end. They just came out and outworked us and outplayed us and deserved to win. We have to come back and do better tomorrow – at least we do get a tomorrow, and we’ve got to get better in shootaround and be focused and let them see our best.”

The Bulldogs indeed started with a lot of energy out of the gates and took a 6-0 lead over the Panthers early. High Point responded with a jumper from Curran and a triple from freshman Claire Wyatt, both assisted by Curran’s classmate Jordan Edwards. The visitors answered with eight straight in 90 seconds thanks to a pair of triples to go up 14-5. HPU was able to get a pair of free throws from freshman LaImani Simmons and then a layup from Wyatt before the quarter was finished, heading to the second down 9-14 after a defensive opening quarter where neither team shot over 30%.

High Point continued its late run into the second quarter, scoring the first seven points of the second to make it an 11-0 run and take the lead for the first time. Senior Chyna McMichel found a lane inside for a layup and then hit a pair of free throws on the next possession to pull the Panthers within one, followed by a triple from sophomore Callie Scheier to give HPU the lead, 16-14.

The lead was short-lived as the Panthers only made three more baskets in the final eight minutes of the half, with two of them coming from deep thanks to redshirt junior Danielle Deoul and redshirt sophomore Jenson Edwards. After not scoring for almost three minutes to start the quarter, Asheville went on a 14-8 run to close out the quarter during that time and take a 28-24 lead into the break.

High Point was held to just nine points again in the third quarter, making just three field goals over the 10-minute period. The Bulldogs scored the first four points of the quarter before Deoul was fouled inside on a shot and converted the three-point play. Senior Miya Bull had a similar opportunity on the next possession, but couldn’t hit the free throw, leaving HPU trailing by five, 34-29.

Asheville scored four more to push its lead to nine before a triple from Scheier made it a two-possession game again. Scheier’s three with 3:15 left in the quarter was the last field goal the Purple and White made in the third, with a free throw from Simmons the Panthers’ only other point, leaving a nine-point, 42-33 deficit entering the final quarter.

HPU had its best offensive quarter in the fourth, scoring 21 points, but so did the Bulldogs, answering each point the Panthers scored with 21 of their own. Asheville’s lead got as high as 14 points after scoring the first five points of the fourth, but High Point responded with a 15-4 run to make it a three-point game, 51-48, with 3:25 remaining. Curran and Jordan Edwards spearheaded the run, combining for 12 of the points, seven from Curran and five from Edwards, while Jenson Edwards sparked the run with a triple for the other three points.

Three was as close as the Panthers got, with Asheville answering with a layup on the next possession and HPU going four possessions without finding the basket. High Point didn’t connect from the floor until Curran hit an inside jumper with 23 seconds remaining and the deficit at seven. The Panthers kept fouling to try and claw their way back, but Asheville hit all 11 of its free throw attempts in the fourth, part of a 19-20 effort on the day from the stripe, to hold off High Point and win by nine, 63-54.

HPU and Asheville will meet again tomorrow (Dec. 20) to finish the series, with Sunday’s game also scheduled to start at 2 p.m. The Panthers are then off through Christmas, returning to the hardwood on Dec. 30-31 in Spartanburg, S.C. for a two-game series with USC Upstate.