HPU WBB Panthers Defense Flexes Muscles in Win at Winthrop

Site: Rock Hill, S.C. (Winthrop Coliseum)
Score: High Point 61, Winthrop 43
Records: HPU 8-4 (6-1 Big South), WU 2-6 (1-4 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Sunday, January 10, 2021 — at Winthrop (Rock Hill, S.C.) 5 p.m.

ROCK HILL, S.C. – High Point University’s women’s basketball team made it six wins in a row on Saturday evening (Jan. 9) with a 61-43 victory over Winthrop University. It was also the sixth consecutive road victory in the Big South dating back to last season, matching the third-longest such streak in program history. The game looked like it was slipping from High Point late in the third quarter when Winthrop made it a two-score game, but a dominant start to the fourth quarter that held the Eagles off the board for over seven minutes of the frame powered HPU to another victory.

“Today was definitely a game of runs,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said after the win. “We went on a run in the first quarter, Winthrop came out in the second quarter, played hard and made some plays, and beat us in the second and third quarter. Their press gave us a little bit of trouble and made us rush some things so we’ll be making adjustments there, but thankfully we went on our run in the fourth quarter. We came out really strong with a 14-0 run that separated us and we were able to keep that separation the rest of the game. I’m proud of how our team responded to it. It would’ve been easy to get down [in the third] so I’m happy we came out and made some plays down the stretch.”

The Panthers spread the ball around the floor extremely well yet again, with four players scoring in double digits for the second game in a row and fifth time this season – all five of which have been wins. Redshirt freshman Cydney Johnson led the way with a career-high 16 points, followed by redshirt sophomore Jenson Edwards with 13, 11 of which came in the second half. True freshman Claire Wyatt also set a career-best with 12, and junior Skyler Curran rounded out the Panthers in double digits, scoring all 11 of her points in the first half.

HPU got the job done defensively as well, with the 43 points allowed the fewest the Purple and White have surrendered since holding Presbyterian to 40 in the 2018-19 campaign. High Point had its two best defensive quarters all season in the first and fourth quarters on Saturday, holding the Eagles to a combined 10 points over those 20 minutes of play.

“We started to guard a little better today and did a good job taking them out of what they like to do,” Banbury said of her defense. “When they went on their runs they were getting a lot of second-chance opportunities but down the stretch we were able to limit them to one shot at a time by rebounding the ball rather well.”

High Point got the job done at both ends of the floor in the first, shooting 50% in the opening frame and holding Winthrop to just six points, the fewest points HPU has given up in an opening quarter all season. After giving up a basket on the opening possession, the Panthers went on a 17-2 run that gave them a lead that stayed in double digits until late in the second quarter.

Wyatt spun her way inside for High Point’s opening bucket, followed by a pair of free throws from Johnson. Curran heated up after Johnson’s free throws, scoring three of the Panthers’ final five baskets in the run, all coming from behind the arc. Winthrop ended the Purple and White’s streak with an inside jumper just under two minutes left in the opening quarter and Johnson scored once more for HPU – ending a three-minute scoreless streak, to give High Point a 19-6 lead heading to the second.

Curran and Johnson continued to carry the load for the Panthers early in the second quarter, scoring HPU’s first six points of the frame. Curran connected on an early jumper and Johnson found her way inside for a layup and a pair of free throws to make it 25-10 with just over seven minutes remaining.

Another dry spell of almost three minutes followed for the Panthers as it took until three-and-a-half left in the half for High Point to score again when Wyatt got back on the scoresheet. Winthrop was able to cut HPU’s lead to single digits with two minutes left in the half but Jordan Edwards’ first basket of the day and a beautiful pick and pop between Callie Scheier and Wyatt led to a triple for the freshman and gave the Panthers an 11-point, 33-22 lead at the break.

It took almost three minutes for either team to get on the board in the second half, with Winthrop sinking a free throw with 7:20 showing on the clock for the first points in the third for either team. It took another minute for the Eagles to make the first field goal of the half, and another minute before Jenson Edwards found her way to the hoop for HPU’s first bucket from the floor in the third, right before the media timeout.

The Panthers only made two more looks from the floor in the quarter, with both coming from Jenson. She hit a triple as the shot clock expired with 2:24 left in the quarter and fought her way to the rim with 20 seconds left to get the hoop and the harm but couldn’t hit from the stripe. Winthrop only made five field goals in the quarter but hit one more free throw than HPU and made it a two-possession game, 45-39, heading into the final quarter.

High Point erased any ideas of a Winthrop comeback from the start of the fourth, going on a 14-0 run in the first seven minutes. Jenson made it four straight scores for the Purple and White on HPU’s opening possession of the quarter, followed by an inside cut from Wyatt and a triple from Johnson.

Jenson connected from the floor again and redshirt sophomore Courtney Meadows sank a pair of free throws before graduate student Miya Bull got inside for the score to give High Point a 20-point lead, it’s largest of the game, 59-39. Winthrop finally got on the scoresheet in the fourth after Bull’s bucket and then hit a pair of free throws late for its only points, finishing with just four points in the quarter as a team – the fewest allowed in any quarter by the Panther defense this season.

High Point and Winthrop conclude the two-game series tomorrow (Jan. 10) with another 5 p.m. tip in the Winthrop Coliseum. That leads the Panthers into their bye week in Big South play, next returning to action back in South Carolina with a pair of games at Presbyterian on Jan. 22-23.