HPU MBB: Wright Matches Season High in Hard Fought Set Back Against Winthrop

Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: Winthrop 71, High Point 63
Records: High Point (8-13), 6-10 Big South, Winthrop (20-1), 17-1 Big South
Next HPU Event: Tuesday, Feb. 23rd at Campbell (Pope Convocation Center), 7:00 PM

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s basketball team (8-13) (6-10) fell in another hard-fought contest to Winthrop (20-1) (17-1) 71-63 on Friday night (Feb. 19) at the Millis Center. HPU was led by John-Michael Wright, who tied a season-high with 29 points on the evening. Wright scored 19 of his points in the second half and consistently fueled the Panthers’ offensive output. In his final home regular season contest on Senior Night, Denny Slay also chipped in with nine points three rebounds, four assists, and three steals on the evening for the Panthers.

“Once again I thought our kids fought hard, there is no consolation for playing people close, Coach Tubby Smith said. I thought we were in the game for the most part but obviously, Winthrop is a very talented team. Chandler Vaudrin stepped up tonight at the end which is what good players do. I can’t say enough about John-Michael, his heart, and how tough he is. It was senior night we wanted to send Denny off with a win but we will get it right sooner or later.”

The first half was an evenly contested battle with neither team seizing control of the game.

The Panthers had a balanced scoring attack as their first five field goals were scored by five different Panthers, with a Lydell Elmore jumping cutting a Winthrop lead to 13-9 and the 15:49 mark of the 1st half. Winthrop responded with a 7-0 run to increase their lead to 20-9 at the 12:13 mark.

The Panthers refused to let Winthrop pull away and a three-pointer from freshman Ahmil Flowers and two jumpers from Denny Slay cut the Winthrop lead to 22-17 at the 9:14 mark. The John-Michael Wright show took over with 5:28 to go as back-to-back baskets, including a 3-pointer pulled the Panthers within one at the 4:48 mark. Emmanuel Izunabor scored on a basket inside to give the Panthers the first lead of the night 25-24 at the 4:10 mark of the first half.

After a few back and forth baskets from both teams, Wright hit a jumper with six seconds left in the half to pull the Panthers to within 1 and bring the score to 30-29 Winthrop at the half.

High Point took the lead early in the second half with back-to-back effort plays by Ahmil Flowers, which included an offensive rebound and a putback, followed by a highlight-worthy slam dunk to give the Panthers a 33-30 lead at the 18:28 mark of the 2nd half. After a Winthrop bucket, Flowers responded again with a layup to keep the Panthers in the lead by three. Winthrop went on a 9-3 run to re-take the lead and a Wright layup at the 13:18 mark pulled the Panthers within two at 42-40. Winthrop responded and went on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to as large as nine, before an Emmanuel Izunabor thunderous slam dunk pulled the Panthers to within seven, 49-42 at the 10:44 mark.

Winthrop scored three times over the next two-plus minutes of game time to extend their lead to as large as 11 before a Wright jumper pulled the Panthers back to a nine-point deficit, 55-46 at the 7:53 mark. Wright continued to will the Panthers back in the game and hit a jumper, followed by a three to keep the Panthers within striking distance at 58-52. After a Winthrop free throw and two baskets, the Eagle lead grew to 11. With 2:42 remaining Winthrop raised the lead to twelve, the Panthers made one last surge to get back into the game. With 2:27 left Wright scored a flurry of five points in less than 30 seconds with a three-pointer and a layup which brought the Winthrop lead down to seven. The Panther pressured defensively made the closing moments difficult for Winthrop. The Eagles were able to push the lead back out to nine twice in the last two minutes to allow themselves to hang on.

UP NEXT: High Point will travel to Buies Creek for a two-game series against Campbell. The games will be on February 23rd and 24th at 7 pm. Both contests will be streamed on ESPN+.