Site: Spartanburg, S.C. (G.B. Hodge Center)
Score: High Point 60, USC Upstate 52
Records: HPU 4-4 (2-1 Big South), UPST 3-5 (1-2 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Thursday, December 31 — at USC Upstate (Spartanburg, S.C.) 2 p.m.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The High Point University women’s basketball team picked up its second Big South Conference victory in as many games with a 60-52 win at USC Upstate on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 30). It was a breakout game for Cydney Johnson as the redshirt freshman finished with a career-high 15 points in a career-best 23 minutes of action. Johnson finished second in scoring by one point to redshirt sophomore Jenson Edwards, who narrowly missed out on a triple-double with 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists – leading the team in all three categories.
“I give Upstate a lot of credit, they battled, played hard, and fought for 40 minutes. We were fortunate to get a win on the road,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said after the game. “I wasn’t the happiest with our execution on both sides of the ball, so we will need to clean some things up tomorrow.”
High Point spread its scoring out in the first quarter, with four Panthers registering six points in the opening frame. Junior Jordan Edwards finished with five in the first quarter, with all five coming in the first two minutes thanks to a triple and an inside layup. Sophomore Callie Scheier and Johnson each connected from deep for HPU’s next six points and the first half of their six.
The Panthers only led by two at the media timeout halfway through the quarter but closed the first out on a 12-3 run to lead by 11, 23-12 at the end of the quarter. Scheier knocked down another triple right out of the timeout, followed by another from Johnson with a layup after a steal by Jenson Edwards sandwiched in between. Edwards scored four more points in the final minute of the quarter to push HPU’s lead to double-digits and helped keep Upstate off the board in the final three minutes of the period.
Johnson continued her tear at the beginning of the second quarter, scoring High Point’s first six points of the frame. Her triple just under a minute into the quarter was the Purple and White’s last field goal for over four minutes as the Panthers went cold from the floor before redshirt junior Zaria Wright connected to stop the slump. That proved to be High Point’s final bucket of the half as the Spartans closed it out on an 8-1 run, with HPU going 0-5 in the final four minutes of the second quarter. Despite the lack of scoring late in the half, High Point still held a two-possession lead at the break, heading to the locker room up 33-27.
Scheier opened the scoring in the third quarter for the Panthers with a triple 10 seconds into the second half before Upstate rattled off three quick jumpers to cut the lead to three, 36-33. High Point responded with three scores of its own, with Jenson Edwards connecting on back-to-back possessions and assisting on Jordan Edwards’ bucket shortly after. HPU only hit three more shots in the rest of the quarter but they were all from deep and the Purple and White held the hosts to just one field goal in the final four-and-a-half minutes of play in the frame.
Junior Skyler Curran entered the scoresheet for the first time with her triple with 2:32 left in the quarter, followed by one from Jenson Edwards, and Johnson connected on a buzzer-beating trey after grabbing an offensive board to send the Panthers to the fourth with an 11-point lead, 51-40.
Upstate clawed back to make it a two-possession game midway through the fourth quarter as part of a 7-2 run but Curran converted an old-fashioned three-point play and Jenson Edwards hit from behind the arc to run HPU’s lead back up to 12 at 59-47, the Purple and White’s largest lead since the first minute of the second quarter.
Edwards’ three with four minutes left in the game was High Point’s final field goal of the game but the defense held strong once again, limiting the Spartans to just one shot from deep and two free throws in the final five minutes to secure the 60-52 victory in game one of the series.
Senior Chyna McMichel was a big reason the defense was so successful in the game as she swatted five of Upstate’s shot attempts and helped hold the Spartans to shooting just 33.3% from the floor in the game and 12.5% from beyond the arc. McMichel’s five blocks are a career-high and are the most of any Panther since Amaria McNear had five blocks at Gardner-Webb last season.
High Point ends the 2020 calendar year with another game at USC Upstate tomorrow (Dec. 31) at 2 p.m. before returning home to open 2021 with a two-game series against Big South preseason favorite Campbell on Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 4-5) at the Millis Center.