Panthers slam door on Keydets
Wednesday night’s showdown between two of the top players in the Big South Conference never materialized.
High Point University’s entire roster showed up instead in a 96-69 throttling of VMI.
The Keydets entered the Millis Center tied for first place in the league’s North Division thanks to a prolific offense powered by Preseason Player of the Year Stan Okoye. For the first time this season, the senior’s 20 points-per-game average would be met by HPU newcomer Allan Chaney, the graduate student coming off back-to-back 20-point games and making Player of the Year noise of his own.
Okoye got his average – 20 points before fouling out with 7:01 left following an offensive foul and technical – and Chaney did pretty well himself with 19 points, six rebounds and three steals. But Chaney got all the help he needed and then some.
Eleven Panthers scored, with John Brown tallying 17 and Corey Law and Devante Wallace netting 11 each. HPU recorded 24 assists – eight of them by Jairus Sims – on 41 baskets. The team shot a stunning 67 percent from the field in the first half and 59 percent overall while outscoring VMI 58-28 in the paint.
Those numbers helped snap a seven-game losing streak to the Keydets that dated to March 1, 2008, and left the teams with identical records of 9-9 overall and 4-2 in conference.
“That’s what you’ve got to do against those guys,” Panthers coach Scott Cherry said. “Control the paint, control the tempo. Attack their pressure and if you can get to the rim, shoot it. If not, don’t force up a shot.”
The surge started late in the first half when Chaney hit a jumper at the shot-clock buzzer to make it 21-18 HPU. Adam Weary and Dejuan McGaughy drilled back-to-back 3s, Law had a pair of putbacks, Wallace hit another long-range bomb and Brown got loose for a pair of layups.
That 22-8 romp put the Panthers ahead 41-26 and the margin was 53-39 at the half on a play that summed up the evening: McGaughy probed the defense, waited patiently for an opening, then drove and dished to Law for a monster two-handed slam just before the buzzer.
“When you go on a run like that it’s great to do it on your home floor with your fans all cheering for you,” Law said. “It seems like you can’t miss. You’ve gotta love that.”
VMI never threatened in the second half. The lead narrowed to 12 points early in the period before another impressive surge was capped by a blocked shot by Derrell Edwards and scramble for the loose ball. McGaughy emerged with it and served up a lob to Law for one more slam that brought the crowd of 1,306 to its feet again.
The lead grew as high as 35 points as High Point threatened to top 100 points for the first time since 2009 and VMI got so cold that even its free throws missed the mark: The Keydets finished 11 of 34 from the foul line.
HPU visits UNC Asheville on Saturday and returns to the Millis Center on Wednesday to face Longwood.
“This can give us confidence, but we can’t act like we’ve arrived,” Cherry said. “We can’t waste this by going up to Asheville and losing. We’ve put ourselves in a decent position (in the league race).”