HPU seeks to get back on winning path
With the impressive victories in it first two games now becoming distance memories, the High Point University men’s basketball team will be seeking its first victory over and NCAA Division I opponent in five weeks when it faces Eastern Kentucky today at the Millis Center. (7 p.m., WMFR radio).
A win over the Colonels would be most welcome from another angle. The Panthers are 1-4 in their last five games, the win coming against Johnson & Wales, and now sit at 4-5 coming off a disappointing home loss to Western Michigan in which they trailed by 25 before getting as close as five in the closing minutes.
“A win anytime is important,” HPU coach Scott Cherry said. “Against Western Michigan, we dug a hole like we did against William & Mary and it was too much to overcome. We’ve been in position to win but we’ve got to learn how to make plays at the end.
“Right now, it is important for us to get a win going into Christmas and build some momentum as we head toward the start of conference play next month.”
What the Panthers need to do, Cherry said, is push the ball in transition and get its two scorers, big men John Brown and Allan Chaney.
“We’ve got to play defense, rebound and get out in transition like we did in the first two games against UNCG and Appalachian,” Cherry said. “And we need to work the ball inside. I think teams have seen that we aren’t going to shoot a high percentage from the 3-point area. So we need to get it inside of the 3-point line and to our talented guys in that area.”
Eastern, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, appears to provide a tough challenge. The Colonels won their first nine games before losing their most recent two. The first loss was to Illinois. The most recent came Wednesday night at North Carolina A&T after squandering a lead that reached 17 in the first half.
“They’ve been playing really well until the A&T games,” Cherry said.
His desire to get the ball to the big men and not shoot from the inside could be crucial against Eastern. Opponents have hit just 28 per cent of their 3-point attempts against the Colonels, who have forced 19 turnovers per game while committing an average of 12.
“What they try to do is get after you on the perimeter and try to cut off all the passing lanes to the inside and turn you over,” Cherry said. “So we have to be careful with the ball and we have to get it inside the 3-point arc and make passes and get it around the basket.”
Conversely, Eastern’s offense relies on the outside shooting of 6-0 junior guard Glenn Cosey and 5-11 senior guard Mike DiNunno. Cosey is averaging 16.5 points per game and has hit 47 percent of his field goal attempts. DiNuuno is scoring at a 13.7 ppg clip.
“Those two guards really get then going,” Cherry said. “So, we need to force them to move the ball inside of 3-point line and turn it over.”