Site: Rock Hill, S.C. (Winthrop Coliseum)
Score: #1 Winthrop 83, #8 High Point 54
Records: #8 High Point (9-16), 6-11 Big South, #1 Winthrop (21-1), 17-1 Big South
The High Point University men’s basketball team saw their Big South tournament run come to an end on Monday night (March 1st) as they fell to Winthrop 83-54 in the Big South Quarterfinals. John-Michael Wright led HPU in scoring on the evening with a game-high 17 points. The 17-point performance marked the fifteenth straight contest where Wright has scored at least ten points. Wright scored double digits in all but one contest this season. Denny Slay II finished second in scoring with 9 points on the night.
“We lost to a team that is really playing well”, Coach Tubby Smith said after the game. “We got off to a tough start, they were physical, even though we are one of the few teams to have beaten them on the boards this year, they annihilated us tonight on the boards then their three-point shooting was spot on. We were able to hold them to 37% shooting in the first half we just couldn’t get anything going offensively. They were impressive, I was impressed with their ability to shoot the ball they had two guys have ten assists as well.”
Winthrop was able to take advantage of a slow scoring start for the Panthers. Lydell Elmore got the action started for HPU with a slam to make it a one-point game about three minutes into the contest. The Eagles quickly made the most of some Panther mistakes and missed free throws. Winthrop was able to have their lead reach double digits with 14:26 remaining in the first. High Point was getting quality looks but was just unable to get the offense rolling. HPU had to battle through a scoring drought against the Big South’s number one seed in the conference tournament.
With 10 minutes left in the half High Point started an attempt to work themselves back into the game as the Panther shots started to fall. Wright got a few to go down the stretch. Wright powered a 7-2 with under five minutes left in the first half. Slay hit a jumper then Ahmil Flowers scored a fast break layup and all of a sudden HPU found themselves only down 15 with 2:20 remaining in the first half. After being held to only ten points as a team in the first ten minutes of the contest, the Panthers scored 16 points in the last nine minutes of the half. The Panthers headed to the break down 42-26.
Wright finished with a game-high 17. Holt brought down six rebounds which led the team in boards on the evening. The Eagles would go on a 24-7 run in the first ten minutes of the second half and were able to pull away and secure the quarterfinal win.
“I hope we can build off of this (tournament experience) we did win a game over USC Upstate at home, the first tournament win in five years”, coach Smith said. “That is something that we talked about at the end of the game and what we need to do to get better. You could see some of our young players hit the wall although Alex (Holt) was going against some talented upperclassmen. I have a lot of respect for Ahmil (Flowers), John-Michael (Wright), and Alex they played hard. Jaden House gave us some quality minutes tonight so the future is bright.”
HPU’s post-season 2020-2021 run includes the first post-season win since 2016, along with the first Panther quarterfinal appearance since 2016 for HPU. High Point finishes the 2020-2021 campaign with a record of 9-15 overall and a 6-11 Big South record.