Winthrop women hold off HPU, 79-72

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 06:59 PM

The High Point University women’s basketball team rallied from 19 down in the first half but stumbled midway through the second half in falling 79-72 to Winthrop on Saturday afternoon in the Millis Center.

Freshman guard Kaylah Keys scored a career-high 26 points, plus had seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Panthers (5-4, 1-1 Big South), while junior Latrice Phelps added 11 points and 14 rebounds, and redshirt junior Lindsay Puckett had 11 points.

“I’m really proud of the resiliency,” HPU coach DeUnna Hendrix said. “We went down 19 and a lot of teams would’ve quit. But they fought back — there’s a lot of fight in this team. But we’ve got to come out and have that mentality from the start. We’ll correct that and grow from this.”

Early in the first half, with the Panthers leading 7-2, the Eagles (6-2, 1-0 Big South) scored 21 of the game’s next 23 points — including 16 straight to start — to lead 23-9 with 11:41 left. They increased their lead to 38-19 before HPU closed the half on a 14-3 run to pull within 43-35.

The Panthers then opened the second half on a 10-3 run to pull within 46-45 on Puckett’s 3-pointer with 16:28 left, tied it 48-48 on Phelps’ three-point play with 15:28 left and led 53-51 on Keys’ 3-pointer with 14:23 left.

“We went down about 19 or 20, so it was a very big hole,” Keys said. “But I think we just pushed through and got the mentality that we can play with them and come back. So, that’s exactly what we did in the first half.

“We really wanted to play for Tay,” she said, referring to starting point guard Tayler Tremblay, who left the game with a knee injury. “We know that, if she were still in, she would’ve played her butt off too. So, we were trying to do the same thing for her.”

But, with the score tied 54-54, Winthrop scored eight straight points to regain the lead, 62-54 with 10:25 left, and pushed its lead back to double-figures with 6½ minutes left. HPU got only as close as seven in the final seconds.

The Panthers struggled with fouls, with Puckett, Lexi Patterson and Stacia Robertson playing with three and four fouls much of the second half, and were without Tremblay, who suffered a right knee injury on a transition drive to the basket with 11:05 left in the first half and didn’t return.

“Anytime you lose your point guard it’s going to be a hit,” Hendrix said. “But also being a senior leader and the leader all season, it’s an even harder hit. But we had some players step up and continue to step up.

“I think, more than anything, it hurt to have Lexi and Puck in foul trouble. Lexi was getting after it defensively and creating some things, and Puck was hitting shots. You pull those two out and it changed the game a little bit.”

The Eagles finished with five players in double-figure scoring, led by Dequesha McClanahan with 17 points and 10 assists, Erica Williams with 16 points and eight rebounds and Schaquilla Nunn with 13 points and 15 rebounds.

HPU plays at UAB on Tuesday and at North Carolina on Saturday before returning home Dec. 30 against Liberty.