Site: High Point, N.C. (Qubein Center)
Score: High Point 73, Howard 63
Records: High Point (2-2), Howard (3-2)
HIGH POINT, N.C. — The High Point University men’s basketball defeated Howard 73-63 in the opening game of the Legends Classic on Saturday (Nov. 20) afternoon in the Qubein Center. John-Michael Wright led the Panthers in scoring with 20 points; however, the Panthers had four total players in double figures. Bryant Randleman scored 15 points, with all of them coming in the second half, to rally the Panthers to the victory. Jaden House scored 14 points on 6-9 shooting and Zack Austin had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 blocks on the day. Austin’s 7 blocks in a single game are the second-most in program history – only one player (Cruz Daniels in 2008 against Youngstown State) has ever had more in one game. The Panthers will compete in the championship game of the Legends Classic against the winner of the Georgia State/William and Mary game.
Coach Tubby Smith: We are happy to get the win, I was impressed by Kenny Blakeney and the Howard Bison they did a great job defensively. They created a lot of problems for us with their switching defense, with their aggressive defense, and their aggressive offense. I was impressed with our guys, we regained our composure and fought through some adversity. I’m certainly proud of how Bryant Randleman played as we finished the game. We finished the game the right way, we are really excited about getting this win and playing in the championship game tomorrow.
The Panthers jumped out to a 7-2 lead which forced an early Howard timeout. Wright opened the game with a driving layup and was then fouled on a three-point attempt. Wright made all three free throws before an Emmanuel Izunabor jump shot in the paint gave the Panthers the early advantage.
House kept the offense on point for the Panthers and they kept their lead at 18-12 at the under-12 media timeout. House had a driving layup, followed by a drilled triple a possession later to keep the offense going for HPU. After the timeout, House followed with a putback on a missed jumper to get to nine points early in the first half.
Another driving layup by House, followed by an Izunabor putback gave the Panthers a 26-17 lead at the 7:40 mark of the 1st half.
The Panthers opened up their biggest lead of the first half at 32-19 after a rebound and a slam by Wright, followed by a huge block by Austin on a three-point attempt by the Bison.
The Bison fought back with tough defense, but a layup on a cut by Austin on a dish from Rob Peterson III gave the Panthers a 34-29 lead at the break. The Panthers finished the first half shooting 43.8% from the field and outrebounded the Bison by 7. The Panthers also had 5 blocks in the first half.
The start of the second half was a back and forth affair and the Panthers led 39-35 after the first media timeout at the 15:35 mark. Austin scored all five points for the Panthers during these first few minutes. After a jumper by Wright to extend the lead to 41-35, the Bison responded with an 11-0 run to take a 46-41 lead and forced an HPU timeout.
The Panthers responded with a driving acrobatic layup by Randleman as he was falling down. Randleman got fouled on the play and made the free throw to cut the lead to 44-46 with 11:20 to go.
After a block by Austin on a jumper, Randleman drove into the lane and was fouled. After a review by the officials, the foul was deemed a flagrant. Randleman made both free throws and Wright buried a three on the same possession to cut the lead to 49-50. After a Bison three-pointer, Randleman drove in the lane and scored to bring the Panthers to within two.
The Panthers forced a turnover and two free throws by Wright tied the game at 53 apiece with 6:53 remaining. After another steal by the Panthers, Wright buried a jumper to give the Panthers a two-point lead at 55-53 and force a Bison timeout. House drove for an and-1 basket in the paint and the Panthers took a 58-53 lead with 5:20 remaining.
The Bison scored back-to-back baskets to tie the game at 58-58 with 3:37 left heading into the final media timeout of the game. The Panthers took a 62-60 lead on a driving layup from Randleman. After yet another block from Austin, Randleman gathered a loose ball and drove to his left to give the Panthers a 64-60 lead with 2 minutes in the game. The Bison cut the lead to two, but a huge offensive rebound and putback one-handed slam by Austin gave the Panthers a 66-62 lead with 1:26 to go. Another Randleman drive and score gave the Panthers a 68-62 lead with 46 seconds left.
The Panthers closed out the game at the free-throw line and won 73-63. The Panthers shot 45.6% from the field for the game and finished as a team with 11 blocks in the game. The 11 blocks as a team were tied for the second-most in program history and the first time since the 2006-07 season.
UP NEXT: HPU plays in the championship game of the Legend’s Classic at High Point University as HPU will take on the winner of Georgia State / William & Mary on Sunday at 2:00 PM.