HPU men spear Lancers, 88-60
Longwood looked nothing like a three-win team. High Point University looked nothing like a contender.
For a half.
An energized group of Panthers outscored the Lancers 53-30 in the second half en route to an 88-60 victory Wednesday night in the Millis Center before a crowd of 1,127. High Point pulled off the second-half surge with dominating defense and an array of hustle plays leading to easy baskets – aspects noticeably absent in the first 20 minutes.
“The focus on the defensive end of the floor is where we needed to pick up our intensity,” Panthers coach Scott Cherry said. “I told them that every made basket, dead ball, free throw, we were going to be pressing. We started creating turnovers and that led to fast-break opportunities. We got into the open floor and made plays, which we’re really good at.”
The Panthers improved to 10-10 overall and 5-3 in the Big South Conference entering Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at the Millis Center against Presbyterian. HPU is tied for first in the North Division with Campbell and Radford.
Four Panthers scored in double figures, led by John Brown’s 17 points. Allan Chaney added 16, Dejuan McGaughy 14 and Adam Weary 10.
The points didn’t matter as much as a few other key stats. Brown tallied three steals and three assists – most of them during the game-changing run. Chaney led the team with eight rebounds, one of them an impressive putback slam in the decisive second half. McGaughy dished a team-high five assists and harassed every Longwood ball-handler.
Cherry said he’s employed the all-out defensive strategy a few times this year when the Panthers have been sluggish. It’s a workout for the players, but worth it for the team.
“We know we’ve got a deep bench and once we play really hard and have fun, someone’s going to come in for you,” McGaughy said. “Once they do the same thing as you, you’re going to go right back in for them. It makes the game really fun.”
Longwood lost its 12th straight game and fell to 3-19 overall and 0-8 in its first season in the Big South. The Lancers were far from a pushover, however, having lost only once in league play by more than 13 points. And this one stood at an uneasy 35-30 HPU at the half.
McGaughy got the second-half surge started with a 3-pointer, but it was the Panthers’ defensive intensity – four turnovers in five possessions – that truly rattled the Lancers. Weary hit a jumper, Brown had a slam on the break and then recorded a quick steal and layup, and Weary capped the 8-0 run with a layup fed by Brown from the post.
“They feed off that level of effort,” Cherry said of the surge that put the Panthers ahead 46-32.
Longwood settled down, but the damage was done. High Point played with confidence the entire second half, shooting 58 percent from the floor and building a lead as big as 28 points.
The Lancers stayed close throughout the first half thanks to impressive freshman Michael Kessens. The 6-foot-9 import from Switzerland hit 10 of 12 shots and finished with 22 points. Guard Tristan Carey also shot the ball well and tallied 15 points, but the Lancers finished with 20 turnovers that turned into 25 HPU points.
Now, the Panthers need to employ that high level of intensity the final month of the regular season.
“We’ve got to keep taking care of home court, and we’ve done that this year in conference,” Cherry said. “And we’ve got to figure out a way to sneak in some road wins. If we can do that, we should put ourselves in position to win the regular-season championship and get a first-round bye in the tournament.”