Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: High Point 77, UNC Asheville 63
Records: HPU 3-4 (1-1 Big South), AVL 3-4 (1-1 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Wednesday, December 30 — at USC Upstate (Spartanburg, S.C.) 2 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – Four players scored in double digits for the third time this season as the High Point University women’s basketball team evened its conference record with a 77-63 victory over UNC Asheville on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 20). Junior Jordan Edwards led the way with 19 points, followed by classmate Skyler Curran with 17, redshirt sophomore Jenson Edwards with 15, and LaImani Simmons with 14 – a career-high for the freshman.
“I’m really proud of how our girls bounced back from yesterday. You never know how you’re going to react with back-to-back games, especially when you lose a game where you feel like you didn’t play all that well,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said after the victory. “I challenged them today to have energy and get themselves going and they did a good job of that. We set the tone from the beginning. Defensively, we were much stronger from the start and were helping each other – we played as a team together – and we had a better start offensively. The team accepted my challenged and I was proud of what they did today.”
Sunday’s contest was a game of runs, with each side getting hot and cold for long periods of time to shift the momentum. High Point started with the hot hand, scoring the first eight points of the game, with two points spread over four different players. Asheville finally got on the board six minutes into the game and answered with a pair of triples to make it a two-point game. It remained a one-possession game until the final minute of the first when Curran connected on a layup and Simmons was rewarded at the rim with an old-fashioned three-point play, to give the Panthers a 17-10 lead and head into the second on a 5-0 run.
High Point’s run continued for almost three minutes into the second quarter, and stretched to 16-0 in that span. Curran opened the quarter with a triple on the opening possession, followed by a layup from Simmons and back-to-back threes from Jordan Edwards and freshman Claire Wyatt to push HPU’s lead to 28-10.
Asheville finally got on the board in the second with a triple three minutes in and added a layup after that but the Panthers drilled consecutive triples yet again – this time one from each Edwards – to take the largest lead of the game, 34-15. The Bulldogs fought back with their first run of the game after that, rattling off 12 straight to make it a seven-point lead for HPU at 34-27, with just under two minutes left in the half. Neither team was able to hit from the floor for the remainder of the half, with a free throw from Jenson Edwards the lone point scored to give the Purple and White a 35-27 lead at the break.
Curran scored the first points of the quarter for the third time in the game with a quick layup 10 seconds into the new half, followed by another three from Wyatt before Asheville continued its fight back with eight unanswered to make it a two-possession game, 40-35. High Point was able to push its lead back up to nine at 49-40 with just under four minutes on the clock when Simmons hit an inside jumper to cross double digits, but the visitors started on another tear in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the third.
The Bulldogs went on a 12-3 run after Simmons’ shot to finally erase the deficit and tie the game. The majority of their points came from the free throw line, going 7-8 from the stripe during that stretch. Asheville finally tied it on a pair of free throws with nine seconds left in the quarter, but it didn’t stay that way long as Jordan Edwards responded with a pair of free throws herself to give HPU back the lead 54-52 at the end of the quarter, which it didn’t relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
The Panthers came out in the fourth determined to put the game out of reach and did just that, starting the quarter on a 9-2 run to stretch the lead back up to nine, 63-54, which never dipped below six points again. High Point’s ball security ramped up to protect the lead as HPU did not commit a single turnover in the final quarter, finishing the game with a season-low nine giveaways in the contest.
Asheville started fouling with just over a minute remaining and down six, but the Panthers did their job at the line, going a perfect 10-10 in the final 70 seconds of the game to hold on for the win. High Point’s defense also stepped up in a big way in the final minute, forcing the Bulldogs to shoot just 1-4, including 0-3 from deep, during the stretch to come away with the 77-63 victory. Three-point defense has been one of HPU’s strengths early this season, entering Sunday’s game atop the Big South and 28th in the country by allowing just 22.5% of opponent’s triple attempts to fall.
All three victories for the Panthers this year have seen four players in double-digits, a scenario in which the Purple and White were 6-1 a season ago, including 5-0 in Big South play. Curran and Jenson Edwards have been in double digits for all three victories so far this year, and Jordan Edwards and Simmons have reached the mark twice in the trio of wins.
That balanced scoring attack is a byproduct of the system that Banbury runs, and happens naturally when the offense is clicking.
“Our offense is better when we’re moving and the ball is moving,” Banbury said about her team’s attack. “If we have a lot of movement and the ball is constantly moving, more people are going to get touches and more people are going to have opportunities to score and we become a much tougher team to guard. When we get stagnant, we stop moving. The ball sits in one person’s hands, and you’re depending on that person to do a lot, but it’s a lot easier to guard that person as well. We become a much harder team to guard when multiple people score and multiple people touch it every possession and we have multiple screening actions every possession.”
High Point is off for 10 days over the Christmas holiday before returning to action next Wednesday (Dec. 30) and Thursday (Dec. 31) for the first conference road trip of the season. The Panthers travel south to USC Upstate for a pair of games to close out 2020 before opening the new year with a two-game series at the Millis Center against preseason favorites Campbell on Jan. 4 and 5.