Site: San Antonio, Texas (Alamodome)
Score: #1 UConn 102, #16 High Point 59
Records: UConn 25-1, HPU 22-7
SAN ANTONIO, TX – The High Point University women’s basketball team’s historic 2020-21 campaign came to a close in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament with a 102-59 loss to No. 1 seed UConn Sunday evening (March 21).
It was the first-ever NCAA Tournament game for the Panthers and gave HPU a final record of 22-7 on the season, setting two different records. The 22 wins go down as tied for the most wins in a season in the program’s Division I history while the seven losses are the fewest the Purple and White have had since making the jump to D1 in 1999. Not only was it the first NCAA Tournament game for High Point, it was also the first-ever HPU sporting event aired live on ESPN, as the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is the first in its history to be aired entirely on broadcast television.
“I’m proud of how our girls came out. They played hard and I don’t think were too intimidated by the opponent,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said after her first game in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. “UConn is a phenomenal team. They always have a good team and our girls came out and left everything out on the court. I’m proud of them and how we came out and gave it our best shot, especially for the first time being here.”
High Point gave the Huskies everything it could handle, especially in the third quarter where UConn only outscored the Panthers by two, 25-23. It was HPU’s best quarter offensively by far, making seven shots from the floor while connecting at a 53.8% clip, and was just the sixth time this season that UConn has given up more than 20 points in a single quarter.
Sunday was only the 10th time this season that a team scored more than 55 points on the Huskies, and was just the second time all year that UConn allowed a team to make nine shots from behind the arc – the most the Huskies have surrendered in a single game.
Three Panthers were in double digits in the game, led by Skyler Curran with 14. That gives Curran a total of 514 points for the year, the fifth-most in a single season in HPU’s D1 history, just 24 points shy of matching Kaylah Keys’ record from the 2013-14 season. She also ended the year with 210 rebounds after grabbing a team-high eight against UConn for the 12th-most in a single season and became just the fourth player in High Point’s D1 history to score 500 points and record 200 rebounds in the same year.
Joining Curran in double digits were Jenson Edwards and Cydney Johnson, with 11 points and 10 points, respectively. Jordan Edwards had another strong game distributing the ball in the face of heavy pressure from the UConn defense, finishing with six assists on the night. That gives her 142 in her first season with the Purple and White, tied for the fifth-most in a single season in HPU’s D1 history while her average of 5.1 assists per game is the third-best mark High Point has had since 1999.
Multiple team single-season records were set or came close to falling this season, with the 2020-21 campaign setting team records in field goal percentage (.427), three-point percentage (.365), and free throw percentage (.754). This year was the 10th time in 21 seasons that the Purple and White have scored at least 2,000 points with a total of 2,094 on the year and was the first season to accomplish that while playing fewer than 30 games.
The Panthers averaged 72.2 points per game this year for the third-best average in program history while HPU’s 14.4 assists per game is the fifth-best mark. For the second year in a row, High Point made 300 three-pointers, making 303 this year to miss last year’s record-setting mark by two.
High Point gave up a basket on UConn’s first possession of the game but held the lead shortly after, with Curran getting the scoring started with a three from the logo at midcourt. The hardwood at the Alamodome had the phrase “Women’s Basketball” spelled out over the half-court line and Curran connected from the first L in “Basketball”, about six feet behind the arc, drawing the attention of the commentators on ESPN and even the UConn bench.
The lead didn’t last for long as the Huskies answered on the next possession to kick-off a run of eight straight to regain the lead, which it didn’t lose again. Curran had half of her 14 in the first quarter, with Jenson Edwards, Johnson, and Courtney Meadows all getting on the scoresheet for the Panthers in the opening 10 minutes. UConn scored 20 points in all four quarters and led 25-12 after one.
Johnson hit a three 13 seconds into the second quarter to cut the deficit down to 10 points but it didn’t get smaller than that the rest of the way, growing to as many as 24 at halftime, 53-29. Claire Wyatt scored six of her eight points in the game in the second quarter, while LaImani Simmons connected from deep on her only shot attempt of the day for three points. The Panthers did better as a whole in the second than the first, totaling 17 points in the quarter and cutting the scoring margin in the 10 minutes from -13 points in the first to -11 points in the second.
The third quarter was where the Purple and White shined, putting up 23 points in the frame to UConn’s 25. It was just the sixth time out of 105 quarters played for UConn that the Huskies allowed more than 20 points in a quarter, with two of those quarters coming in UConn’s only loss of the season to Arkansas. Curran and Jenson Edwards led the way with seven and six points, respectively, while Johnson added five, and Callie Scheier scored her only points of the game on a three that rattled around the rim before finally dropping.
High Point gave it everything they had and that showed in the fourth quarter, with the Panthers running out of gas. UConn had its best quarter of the game defensively in the final 10 minutes, holding the Purple and White to just seven points on three field goals and one free throw, while the Panthers went 0-9 from deep. HPU’s main scorers in the game were held empty in the fourth, with Meadows, Chyna McMichel, and Miya Bull each hitting a shot for the seven points.
While the season ended five games and 14 days short of the ultimate goal in collegiate basketball, the 2020-21 season for High Point was memorable for so many reasons. The Panthers won their third regular-season Big South title and first-ever tournament championship as a Division I program, set multiple team scoring records, and introduced the country to High Point hoops on ESPN’s national stage.
How fitting that a season that ended down the road from the Alamo is one that Panther fans will always remember.