Panther women look to cage Bulldogs
On paper, the High Point University women’s basketball team looms as a solid favorite over UNC Asheville as they open the quarterfinal round of the Big South Conference tournament in Conway, S.C.
HPU has beaten the Bulldogs in their past 11 meetings, including twice this season, the most recent resulting in a 82-75 HPU win two weeks ago in the Millis Center. The Panthers took the Big South regular-season champions by winning their last five games and 12 of their past 13.
Asheville finished eighth in the league at 7-13. The Bulldogs limped into the tournament having lost 9 of 10 before edging Radford 43-42 in the first-round on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs lack of success doesn’t have HPU coach DeUnna Hendrix breathing easy over their quarterfinal matchup.
“It’s tournament time so I don’t know if there is a team I want to see,” Hendrix said. “Everybody knows you have to put three games together and in some cases, four, to win it all. At this point, it’s all about desire, it’s about heart.
“What concerns me about one team, concerns me about every team. We have to come with the intensity that we need.”
A concern for the Panthers is their habit of letting early leads get away. It happened in last Saturday’s 68-60 win over Radford that clinched the regular-season title. It also happened against UNCA two weeks ago when the Panthers let all of a 18-point first half lead slip away.
“We have to find away to keep up the same intensity for 40 minutes,” Panthers all-conference center Stacia Robertson said. “We have to put two good halves together.”
The key for the Panthers is their effort on defense, according to Hendrix.
“Our defense pretty much dictates our offense,” Hendrix said. “If we are not getting after on defense our offense struggles. With defense comes heart. With defense comes energy. If you don’t have it, you aren’t going to be very good.”