Brown, HPU top UNCG
HIGH POINT – No introductions proved necessary Friday night when High Point University opened its men’s basketball season.
Neighbor UNC Greensboro was visiting the Millis Center. Former HPU assistant Wes Miller was coaching the Spartans against his former boss, Scott Cherry. And anyone who saw John Brown play for the Panthers will never forget him.
High Point held on for an 81-73 victory thanks in large part to the rousing performance from Brown. The redshirt freshman scored 28 points and brought the crowd of 1,706 to its feet with a pair of stunning blocks of would-be dunks.
“First game,” said Brown, who added eight rebounds, five steals and three rejections. “All I’ve been waiting for is to get out there with my teammates.”
That wait – which included no basketball activity last season while gaining his NCAA eligibility – was more than worth it. The Panthers entered the season expecting big things from their new-look roster, with most eyes focused on senior forward Allan Chaney. He sparkled with 15 points, but was saddled with foul trouble and played just 16 minutes. HPU also got 10 points from Adam Weary, nine by Lorenzo Cugini and eight out of Dejuan McGaughy, all off the bench.
Brown started and played 31 frenetic minutes, scoring the Panthers’ first four buckets on a backdoor layup, turnaround jumper in the post, a putback and a pullup jumper.
“The secret’s out now,” Cherry said. “I was dying watching him come out to every game last year and sit in the stands.”
Brown amazed just as much on defense. The 6-foot-7 forward came from nowhere to stuff – straight down – a dunk attempt by 6-8 Spartan center R.J. White. As an encore, Brown raced to block a fastbreak dunk try from behind late in the first half, which ended with the Panthers leading 39-33.
For all of Brown’s heroics, the Spartans clawed all the way back from a 56-37 deficit midway through the second half to within two points in the closing minutes. Trevis Simpson led UNCG with 18 points and Kayel Locke tallied 17, with their inside-out game sparking a 29-10 run.
Brown, Chaney, McGaughy and Derrell Edwards hit jumpers to preserve the lead, then Brown struck again: His block under the basket started McGaughy’s sprint to a layup the other way for a 78-70 lead with 50 seconds left.
“Give the kids credit for responding,” said Cherry, whose team eyes a 2-0 start Tuesday at Appalachian State before returning home Saturday against William & Mary.