HPU men clinch share of North title, first-round Big South tourney bye
The High Point University men’s basketball team pulled out a 73-68 win over Liberty to clinch a share of the Big South’s North Division and a bye in the first round of the Big South Tournament on Saturday night at the Vines Center. It was the Panthers’ sixth win in a row.
“Toughness won this, mentally and physically,” said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. “You’re not going to beat a team like this easily, it’s going to take 40 minutes. Every game is going to be like this the rest of the season. I’ve got to give my guys a lot of credit tonight, everyone who contributed, everyone who came off the bench. This was another good win for us.”
Redshirt-freshman John Brown scored 17 points with six rebounds and graduate student Allan Chaney posted his fifth double-double with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
Liberty was led by John Caleb Sanders’s 23 points and five assists. He scored 19 points in the second half and hit 8-of-10 free throws. Tavares Speaks scored 15 points and Casey Roberts scored 11.
High Point improved to 15-10 overall and 10-3 in Big South play. Liberty fell to 9-18 overall and 5-8 in the Big South. It’s High Point’s first six-game winning streak and the Panthers’ best 14-game stretch (11-3) since 2006-07.
The teams went back and forth early before the Panthers went on a 10-0 run to lead the rest of the half. Liberty’s Marshall hit a three-pointer that made it 11-8 Flames before High Point hit the next five baskets – four field goals a free throw. Chaney stepped back and hit a jumper before Wallace drained an open three from the right side. Chaney finished the run with another jumper that made it 18-11 with 9:19 left in the half.
The Flames still challenged and got within three points two more times in the first half, the later coming on a right-handed jam from Liberty’s Speaks that made it 25-22. Wallace responded with his second three-pointer and senior Jairus Simms took a hit that resulted in a three-point play, making it 33-24 with 1:26 left in the half. Edwards hit a pair of free throws to make it 35-24 at the break.
Liberty came out with an 18-7 run to start the second half, tying the score at 42-42 when Sanders faked, pulled back and launched a three with 11:40 left in the game. Both teams hit a pair of free throws before High Point went on a 9-0 run and led the rest of the way.
Redshirt-senior Corey Law started the run when he posted up for a layup. On the next possession, McGaughy grabbed a loose ball that resulted in a three-point play by Law. It was 53-44 when Brown hit a jumper out near the arc.
High Point’s largest lead of the half was 10 points (57-47) on a pair of Adam Weary free throws before Liberty chipped it all the way back to two. HPU’s Dejuan McGaughy drove to the basket twice during Liberty’s strongest challenge, preserving the Panthers’ lead. He went to the rim to make it 59-54 and, with HPU leading 61-58, he made a great move in the paint for another layup that put the Panthers up by five.
Liberty continued to challenge in the final minutes but the Panthers hit eight of their final 10 free throws to get the win. Chaney went 5-for-6 on free throws down the stretch and Brown had a huge second-change layup in the last minute.
High Point’s 10-3 Big South record matches 2006-07 as the program’s best start through 13 league games. HPU guaranteed itself at least a share of the North Division title, which will be the Panthers’ first Big South title in men’s basketball.
High Point is on the road for the third straight game Tuesday when the Panthers play VMI in Lexington, Va. High Point won the first game against the Keydets, 96-69, at the Millis Center on Jan. 23.