HPU men alter routine, trip Gardner-Webb
COLLEGE BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK:
Showing up for practice on Friday, the High Point University men’s basketball team got a surprise.
Instead of the usual day-before workout, as they prepared for Saturday night’s game against Gardner-Webb, head coach Scott Cherry had something else in mind.
“Usually the day before the game it will be a light practice,” freshman guard Adam Weary said. “But, coach came in and said everything was going to be a competition and the people who practice the best are the people who are going to play. I think that lifted the competition because everyone wants to play.
“So, we didn’t have a light practice. It wasn’t like the day before a game and I think that helped us a lot.”
It helped so much that the Panthers played some of their best basketball of the season in turning back Gardner-Webb 70-64 in the Millis Center. It helped so much they shot a season-high 58.7 percent from the field. They were at their best in the second half as they shot a sizzling 68 percent (13 of 19), keyed by hitting 8 of their first 11 shots while going on a 20-8 run to lead 52-37 with 9:42 left.
That was a complete change from a dismal performance during Wednesday’s loss to Radford in which HPU shot 38 percent, hit just 1 of 12 tries from 3-point range and did not score for two critical stretches in the second half.
“The thing is we got stops,” said Weary, who hit 6 of 8 shots on the way to 15 points to tie John Brown for scoring honors. “Everyone is so motivated when we get stops. The Winthrop game was the same way. When we get on a run, it’s because we get stops and are getting out and running.”
The pervious-best shooting performance for HPU came when the Panthers hit 57 percent against Appalachian State in the second game of the season.
“This was the best night against a pretty good defense,” Weary said. “Against Appalachian, we were making open shots. Right now, we’re not worrying about who is shooting the ball. We’re just passing to the open guy. Everybody is getting in the gym and shooting before and after practice. Everyone’s confidence is going up.”
Cherry credited some of the success to his guard driving and dishing instead of shooting 3s over Gardner-Webb’s 2-3 zone.
“They executed the game plan to perfection against the zone,” Cherry said. “We only took six 3s and made three. That’s a credit to these guys to stick with the plan to get the ball inside and attack the gaps in the zone and throw to the guys around the basket.”
Wearing a mask to protect a broken nose, HPU’s Jairus Simms returned to action for first time since being injured Dec. 28.
Cherry said Simms had not played because he was having trouble playing while wearing the mask. Simms played 20 minutes, scored four points, dished three assists but also committed three turnovers.
“He’s gotten better and better in practice, and I wanted to see him do in practice what he needs to do in a game,” Cherry said. “And, I felt comfortable with the way he practiced the last few times to put him out there again. He did a good job, made a few too many turnovers, but did some really nice things.”
NOT WORRIED ABOUT HYPE
By defeating top-ranked Duke, N.C. State played up to preseason predictions as the favorite to win the ACC championship.
The hype didn’t last long when Duke became the darling with wins over high powered teams after the Wolfpack lost most of it luster with losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan and nearly dropped out of the Top 25.
State coach Mark Gottfried isn’t worried about the win over the Blue Devils verifying the predictions.
“I really don’t get into that,” Gottfried said. “We’ve got 18 conference games. We’re going to enjoy this overnight, but we’ve got to go play Wednesday at Maryland. There’s 18 opportunities in our league. We had a good win against a good program, no question. But, we’ve got to get past this on Monday and get ready to go on the road. ... I don’t know if this validates anything, I don’t get into that. I’m just happy for our player today.”
And how does he get his team past the euphoria of beating the Blue Devils so they are ready to handle the Terrapins?
“Here’s the thing we’ve got to bank on right about now is the fact we have four veteran players and they get it, they understand,” Gottfried said. “Last year, we lost four straight games and we were one loss away from putting a fork in us because we were about cooked (as far as an NCAA Tournament bid), But, we didn’t fold our tent. So those four guys need to provide the leadership. It won’t be easy on Wednesday. But our veterans should help us with that.”