HPU men play Campbell for huge stakes
Defeating VMi was just the most recent step in the High Point University men’s basketball team’s quest to capture the Big South Conference’s North Division.
By topping the Keydets 70-67 to win for the fifth straight time and ninth in 10 games, the Panthers improved to 15-13 and moved into sole possession of first at 11-4. They guaranteed a finish of no worse than second in the division and a first-round bye in next week’s conference tournament.
But that was all the Panthers locked up on Wednesday. To be sole champions in the division and come away with the best conference record and at least a berth in the NIT, the Panthers must beat Campbell tonight at the Millis Center. That’s because if the Panthers lose and VMI beats Longwood as expected, creating a tie at the top, VMI would get the top seed because they would own the tiebreaker.
Sophomore center John Brown, who scored 27 points against the Keydets and became the first Big South player to top 1,000 points in his first two seasons, believes the Panthers will not be overconfident in the wake of the VMI win and will be ready to avenge their 74-71 loss to Campbell in HPU’s conference season-opener on Jan. 8.
“Coach (Scott Cherry) is going to remind us every day that we are not the tough guys we think we are,” Brown said. “Any team can come down here and punch us in the mouth or we can go to their place and punch them in the mouth. We’ve got to stick with what he is saying to be guaranteed of doing what we have to do.”
Campbell started 5-2 in league play but has lost four in a row to slip to 6-9. They lost to VMI by four on Feb. 19 and to Radford by three on Wednesday but were also blown out by Longwood and Liberty. Redshirt junior Rico McCarter leads the Camels in scoring (12.7 points per game) and rebounding (5.2 rpg). He is backed by three other double–figure scorers — Darius Leonard (10.7). D.J. Mason (10.6) and Andrew Ryan (10.2).
This will be the third time in two weeks that the Panthers have gotten just a one-day break between games. It happened twice during a stretch of three games in five days when they faced Radford on Feb. 15, Charleston Southern on Feb. 17 and Liberty on Feb. 19 — the first three games in their current winning streak.
“The one thing about this group is when they hit that three-game stretch in five days, they had a quick turnaround twice,” Cherry said. “We’ve had experience at this. We talked to them about it at that time. We’ll do the same things we did then. They got to focus in, get their rest, block everything out, get fluids in them, eat good, go over Campbell stuff on the in-between day. Then it comes down to playing with incredible energy (tonight) and we did that in that three game stretches, when I thought we did a tremendous job.
“They go through it and they know what it is like, so it won’t be foreign to them.”