HPU's comeback bid falls just short
Perhaps the true winter chill has not yet arrived to North Carolina, but on Sunday afternoon in High Point, the Panthers’ first-half offense was fit for the Arctic Circle.
After playing to a 10-10 draw through eight minutes, HPU went ice cold for the next 10, failing to score as visiting Western Michigan ran off 21 straight points. Although the Panthers would eventually trim the deficit to four thanks to relentless full-court pressure in the second half, the Broncos hung on for a 70-64 victory in front of 1,104 at the Millis Center.
John Brown and Allan Chaney scored 20 points each for the Panthers, but Western’s more balanced attack, along with a dominant rebounding performance, prevented High Point from avenging a 54-53 loss to the Broncos in Kalamazoo on November 29.
Nate Hutcheson led Western Michigan with 19 points, while Shayne Whittington scored 15 and Darius Paul added 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Broncos out-boarded the Panthers 53-26, securing 20 demoralizing offensive rebounds along the way.
“Rebounding was killing us,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “We made them miss some shots in the zone and I wanted to play it more, but we weren’t boxing out in it…We just didn’t do a good job of putting bodies on people and getting the rebound.”
While the Panthers could not pick up enough missed shots, perhaps the bigger struggle was actually making shots. A late flurry of offense allowed High Point to shoot 35.5 % in the game, but the Panthers’ made only two of their 14 three-pointers. The frontcourt, led by Brown and Chaney, shot 50% (19-for-38); the five guards that saw action combined to shoot 12.5 % (3-for-24).
“We just didn’t step up confidently and take shots and make them in the first half,” said Cherry. “I think we got some good ones; I’ll look at the film. But our lack of confidence on the offensive end carried over to the defensive end of the floor.”
Down 21 at the break, High Point went on an 11-5 rally to inch within 15 early in the second, but the Broncos responded with a 13-3 burst that gave Western its largest lead at 55-30. From there, the Panthers ferocious press raced them to a 33-13 onslaught, making it 68-64 in the final minute.
High Point forced 20 turnovers in the second half, 26 in the game, but time ran out on the Panthers’ comeback, with Hutcheson’s free throws securing the final points for the Broncos.
“We just didn’t play well for 40 minutes,” said Cherry.
High Point is back in action against Eastern Kentucky on Friday night at 7 PM. The Colonels, of the Ohio Valley Conference, were one of nine undefeated teams in America entering their Sunday evening tilt against #10 Illinois, which they lost 66-53.