Kent, JMU rally past HPU men

Dec. 16, 2013 @ 10:09 PM

 The High Point University men’s basketball team is learning how to play without star Allan Chaney. Right now, it’s not easy.

The Panthers, who’ve been without Chaney since his playing career ended when his internal defibrillator went off during a game Nov. 24, played very well at times and not so well at other times in falling to James Madison 76-63 on Saturday night in the Millis Center.

HPU (3-5) built a 12-point lead in the first half and led by five at halftime, but it struggled on both ends in the second half, allowing the Dukes to shoot 58 percent while shooting 31 percent itself. JMU (3-8) outscored the Panthers 49-29 in the final 20 minutes.

“First half, we played really good; second half, we played just awful,” said HPU coach Scott Cherry, who midway through the second half took several steps onto the court and very firmly yelled at his players to play. “That falls on my shoulders. I take responsibility.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t come out in the second half with that same level of intensity, effort and focus. … We can’t play like that. We’ve got a young team. Five guys came off the bench tonight -- one’s a senior, four were freshmen. They’re getting there, they’re learning, but you have to figure out how hard you have to play.”

Down 12 late in the first half, the Dukes scored on their final three possessions to pull within 40-35 at halftime. They then scored on their first three possessions of the second half -- totalling 15 points in those six possessions, while the Panthers scored two, to lead 43-42.

Then, trailing by six, John Brown hit a turnaround to pull HPU within 53-49 with 11:59 left, but he was hit with a technical as he jogged back for his fourth personal foul. That was critical, as JMU pulled away with him on the bench, building a 10-point lead with 7:45 left.

“Instead of having Cugini coming off the bench with experience, now we have a freshman coming off the bench,” Cherry said. “John gets in foul trouble, and we have a true freshman playing a lot of minutes for us -- sure, that (adjusting without Chaney) has a lot to do with it.

“But you can’t make excuses. Allan’s not coming back through the door. So, it might be affecting these guys mentally a little bit. But I just keep telling them we have a very good basketball team -- you saw it in the first half. They just have to believe in it, trust in one another and come to work every single day.”

Brown finished with 17 points to lead the Panthers, who play their next four on the road starting Wednesday at Morgan State and followed Friday at Syracuse. Lorenzo Cugini added 14, followed by Derrell Edwards and Devante Wallace with 10 apiece.

Charles Cook scored 25 points for the Dukes, followed by Andrey Semenov with 16 and Taylor Bessick with 11. Ron Curry and former High Point Christian standout Jackson Kent each finished with 10 (all 10 of Kent’s came in the second half -- including a key 3-pointer with 4:45 left to go up 12).

“I thought it went well,” said Kent, who was selected this week’s CAA Rookie of the Week, in his first trip back to High Point. “We got the win, which was a great feeling. Everybody played well, unselfish. So, it was a lot of fun.

“We just wanted to go out and win, really,” he said of the second half. “We picked up on our defensive rebounding. And then once we got defensive stops and rebounds, we pushed the ball and the ball started moving better. … I’m having fun, I love JMU. As long as we continue to win, that’s all I care about.”