Site: High Point, N.C. (Millis Center)
Score: #1 High Point 85, #8 USC Upstate 63
Records: HPU 20-6 (17-3 Big South), UPST 8-15 (5-11 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Thursday, March 11, 2021 — vs. #4 Gardner-Webb, Big South Tournament Semifinals (Millis Center, High Point, N.C.), 6 p.m.
HIGH POINT, N.C. – The top-seeded High Point University women’s basketball team cruised to an 85-63 victory over No. 8 USC Upstate Monday evening (March 8) in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Hercules Tires Big South Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Monday’s win was only the second Big South Tournament win for the Panthers since 2017 and improved High Point’s record in the tournament to 19-20 all-time. HPU is now 13-8 in the quarterfinal round of the tournament and advances to the semifinals where the Purple and White are 5-7, most recently appearing in 2018, and advancing through to the finals in 2015.
The duo of Skyler Curran and Jenson Edwards combined for 48 of the Panthers’ 85 points, with Curran leading the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Edwards was the most efficient shooter for the Panthers, scoring her 21 points while going 9-10 from the floor, tied for the fourth-best shooting percentage in a single game in HPU’s Division I history among players that made at least eight shots in a game.
“I’m happy our girls came out and played hard from the beginning,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said after her team’s quarterfinal win. “We came out ready to play and shot the ball exceptionally well in the first half. There are some things we need to clean up defensively – we could be better at that end of the floor. Overall, I’m happy with how we performed. Sky [Curran] was excellent again tonight with a double-double. I do have to give Upstate credit though. They were shorthanded and they played hard for 40 minutes. They came out and gave us some trouble and I think they did a good job.”
Callie Scheier and Claire Wyatt also scored in double digits for High Point, dropping in 13 and 12, respectively. It was the 12th time this season that four Panthers have scored in double digits, a situation HPU fairs well in with a record of 11-1 in those 12 games. A total of 10 different Panthers scored in the game, with all but one member of the Purple and White that played ending the game with points.
The 22-point win marks the 10th time out of 20 victories this year that HPU has won by more than 20 points, the first time having double-digit 20-point victories in a single season. High Point’s scoring margin currently sits at 10.8 points on the campaign and is the largest scoring margin the Purple and White have in its Division I program history. HPU also out-rebounded Upstate by 15 in the game, 46-31. It’s the only game this season the Panthers have out-rebounded their opponent by double digits, something the Purple and White achieved three times a season ago.
This season marks the sixth time in its D1 history that High Point has won at least 20 games, and the 16th season accomplishing the feat since the program started in 1967. HPU still has a chance to match or surpass the D1 program record for wins in a single season at 22, set during the 2013-14 season and equaled in the 2018-19 campaign. High Point can only incur a maximum of two more losses this season – one in the Big South Tournament and one in a postseason tournament – for a maximum of eight losses on the year, which will be a D1 program record – as are the two road losses.
The Panthers currently average 73.0 points per game on the season, which sits as the best points-per-game average in program history. Also topping the single-season team records at the moment are HPU’s field goal percentage (42.9%), three-point percentage (36.5%), and free throw percentage (75.5%), while HPU’s mark of 14.6 assists per game is currently the third-best average in program history.
High Point put up 53 points in the first half, the fourth time this season the Purple and White have scored 50 points in the opening 20 minutes of the game, and the most points scored in the first two quarters against a Division I opponent this season. HPU did it with a 69.2% shooting percentage in the half, the best shooting percentage in any half this season for the Panthers. Curran and Edwards did the majority of their damage early on, scoring 18 and 12, respectively, at the break.
The Panthers ended the game with a 54.1% clip from the floor, the second-highest total this season and the sixth time shooting 50.0% or better on the year. HPU only accomplished that feat once last year and this year marks the most games shooting 50% or better since the 2016-17 season when the Purple and White accomplished the feat seven times.
High Point distributed the ball well in the win, combining for 20 assists as a team for the sixth time this season and 10th time under coach Banbury’s leadership, with five different Panthers registering multiple helpers. Edwards and Courtney Meadows led the way with five each, matching Meadows’ season-high. They were followed by Jordan Edwards with four, Scheier with three, and Curran with two. Curran also led the team with three blocks in the contest for a career-high.
The Panthers got out of the gates as hot as can be, scoring eight points on the first three shots they took to lead 8-0 less than two minutes in and force an Upstate timeout. Jenson Edwards knocked down a three on HPU’s opening possession and was followed by a layup from Wyatt and a triple from Scheier on the next two trips down the court. High Point kept the attack from deep coming, hitting two more threes to score on five of its first six shots.
Curran hit back-to-back threes with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter to give her nine points in the first and give HPU a double-digit lead for the first time, 20-9. The Spartans scored the next six to make it a two-possession game but Jenson Edwards scored the final four points of the quarter, including a buzzer-beating layup on a nice feed from Meadows, to give the Panthers a 24-15 lead after one.
High Point opened the second on a better run than the first, scoring the first 10 points of the quarter to lead by 19, 34-15. Wyatt and Scheier hit back-to-back triples and then Meadows got inside for her first points of the game before Curran knocked down a jumper in the paint to get to double digits on the day. Upstate finally got on the board in the frame with a three, four minutes in to stop the run. High Point immediately responded with five points thanks to a three from Scheier and a layup on the break from Jordan Edwards to open a 20-point lead for the first time, 39-18.
The lead hovered around the 20-point mark for the next three minutes before the Spartans went on a small 6-1 run to cut it to 16. The Panthers rebounded by scoring the next eight to take their largest lead of the half at 24 points, 53-29. It shrunk by two points before the half was done as Upstate got inside for a layup with just over a minute on the clock to make it 53-31 at halftime.
Upstate got the first points of the second half but after the teams traded a pair of buckets each, High Point scored the next 11 to open a 33-point lead at 68-35 – its largest of the night – just over halfway through the third. Scheier started the run with her first non-three of the night to get to double digits and dropped in another after Curran hit a jumper from the paint. Curran scored the final five points of the run, capping it off with her fourth and final triple of the game. The Panthers only mustered one free throw in the final four minutes of the third, allowing Upstate to go on an 11-1 run to cut the lead down to 23, 69-46, heading into the fourth quarter.
The baskets were sealed on both sides to start the fourth, with Upstate finally breaking through for the first points of the quarter two-and-a-half minutes in. That got the lead down to 20 but HPU answered with a 12-point run, scoring on four-straight possessions to run the lead back up to above 30. Jenson Edwards scored the first five points of the run and added another two after Wyatt reached double digits. Teegan Pifher hit a three for the final basket of the run to give High Point a 32-point lead, 81-49. The Spartans kept fighting until the end, scoring 14 of the final 18 points to make it 85-63 when the final buzzer sounded.
High Point continues its quest for the first Big South Tournament title in program history on Thursday (March 11) when No. 4-seeded Gardner-Webb visits the Millis Center for the Hercules Tires Big South Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals. Thursday’s tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. with a trip to the championship game on Sunday (March 14) on the line.