HPU rolls to exhibition win
At times, High Point University’s basketball team showed it can be overpowering.
At others, it showed first-game flaws on both offense and defense that need work.
The overpowering part made put away any doubt about the outcome early as the Panthers rolled to a 96-53 victory over Division III Bridgewater in exhibition action at the Millis Center.
Big South preseason player of the year selection John Brown led the HPU effort with 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting. Adam Weary, who hit four 3-pointers, and Lorenzo Cugini added 12 each while 11 of the 12 Panthers who suited up scored.
HPU hit 36 of 62 of its shots with 27 assists while holding the Eagles to 38 percent (22 of 58). The Panthers forced 25 turnovers, while committing 18 of their own, and held a 43-30 advantage on the boards.
Cherry was concerned about the turnovers and also breakdowns on defense, which led to open Bridgewater shots.
“The first half was a little sloppy, the second half was better but 18 turnovers is a lot,” Panther coach Scott Cherry said. “We’ve got to better defensively. I think we’re gifted on the offensive end of the floor. But we’ve got to have a strong commitment to defend in the halfcourt and get back and not let them have easy baskets.”
The Panthers used hot shooting, defense and fast break baskets to pull away in the opening minutes. They hit 6 of their first 7 shots to go up nine before coach Scott Cherry started substituting. They kept rolling after he did, going up 30-12 after 12 minutes by hitting 13 of 21 attempts from the floor while holding the Eagles to four field goals in 16 attempts while forcing eight turnovers.
Allan Chaney led the opening surge, hitting his first three shots. Brown, who was triple-teamed at times, went over six minutes before coming up with a strip steal on the Bridgewater offensive end and then driving for a dunk.
“That gave me a lot of energy and gave the team a lift,” Brown said.
Taking advantage of ball-handling miscues and some defensive breakdowns by the Panther bench players, Bridgewater managed to keep the lead from growing late in the half and trailed 45-26.
“Defensively, we gave up a lot of baskets they shouldn’t have gotten,” Brown said. “The second half, we picked it up.”
But, the Panther starters went on a 17-4 blitz fueled by three 3-pointers by Adam Weary in the first five minutes of the second half to push the margin over 30.
“Offensively, we weren’t getting in our sets fast enough in the first half,” Brown said. “Mainly, it was just coming out and making smart plays off the dribble and such.”
The Panthers were without Devante Wallace and Cliff Cornish. They did not play because of a “violation of team rules,” according to team spokesman Jon Litchfield.
“It allowed us to give some guys minutes who may not get them under normal circumstances,” Cherry said. “We’ve got a 7-8-9 man rotation who can hold their own against anybody but we’ve got to get them all on the floor on the same time and the freshmen have to continue to improve.”
No one had more than three turnovers but point guards Dejuan McGaughy and Jorge Perez-Lanham each had three.
“That’s been us in practice,” Cherry said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve been preaching it and harping on it and talking about it.
Dejuan had six assists and three turnovers, which is a good ratio, but Jorge has got to give us good minutes. But the turnover have been across the board and we have to get better.”