A 14-point High Point swing over a six-minute span in the second half steered the Panthers to a 74-61 road win over Winthrop on Saturday during both schools’ Big South Conference opener.
High Point came in with four straight losses on the road and played without starting point guard Jairus Simms, while standout redshirt freshman John Brown – the third leading freshman scorer in the country at 19.1 points per outing – battled foul trouble throughout. But even with two of their normal cogs inconspicuous, the Panthers (6-7, 1-0) were able to pick up their fourth straight win over Winthrop (6-7, 0-1), thanks largely to 8-of-19 3-point shooting and a 46-31 rebounding advantage.
“I got to give a ton of credit to High Point,” said Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey. “They were the better team today, the tougher team today. They executed better and that’s a reflection on the job they did preparing.”
Adam Weary and Allan Chaney led High Point with 13 points each, Devante Wallace had 11, and Brown and Dejuan McGaughy pitched in 10 a piece. Gideon Gamble led Winthrop with 14 points, Joab Jerome had 13 and James Bourne added 10.
“We got contributions from a lot of different guys,” said High Point coach Scott Cherry. “We had five guys in double digits. You get balanced scoring like that from guys in different positions, you’re gonna win basketball games.”
Brown and Chaney, High Point’s outstanding frontcourt duo, were held relatively quiet, but the Panthers’ marksmen got hot from distance in the second half. Cherry’s team came into the game shooting 26 percent behind the arc, but Derrell Edwards knocked in three 3-pointers during the Panthers’ decisive run that turned a 42-all tie into a 60-46 High Point lead.
Cherry said the key was, “getting a couple of stops and the ball seems to go in a little bit easier. Derrell Edwards got on a roll in the second half and hit some really big shots.”
Midway through the second half Lorenzo Cugini found Edwards with a cross-court look for a three, and the junior-college transfer then bombed one in from the corner after a High Point offensive rebound revitalized a dead possession. Edwards’ 3-pointer then put the Panthers up 55-44 with 7 minutes left. Weary, filling in for Simms at the point, put the visitors up 16 with a flying drive to the rack that made it 60-44 with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left.
“Big shots, on the road, credit to them for making them,” Kelsey said. “But we got to make sure guys aren’t shooting comfortable jump shots. They scored 48 in the second half... 48. That just can’t happen.”
The Eagles labored to make up the deficit but only hit 3-of-14 three-pointers. In the last two games, Winthrop is a combined 5-of-24 from beyond the arc. But Kelsey was more disappointed that his team was out-rebounded 14-5 on the offensive glass, allowing High Point a crucial 16-5 second-chance scoring advantage.
When asked what contributed to the offensive rebounding deficit for Winthrop, Kelsey pointed to his chest.
“Probably that organ that sits in that chest cavity there to the left side, inside that rib cage,” he said. “That has a little something to do with it.”
The second-half capitulation was surprising considering Winthrop somewhat bossed proceedings inside in the first half, outscoring the Panthers 16-8 in the paint the first 20 minutes. High Point’s Brown picked up two early fouls, limiting him to just five minutes on the court in the first half, and the Eagles were able to take advantage. Bourne beat his man down the floor for a score and an early 8-5 Winthrop lead, before his offensive rebound led to a second-chance bucket for Brown inside and a 14-11 lead with just over 9 minutes left.
Besides Bourne, Steve Johnson gave Winthrop some of his best minutes of the season. He punctuated a pressbreak with a nice slam, before corralling a dish from Jerome for another easy bucket and a 25-21 Winthrop advantage.
Johnson, who finished with a season-high 8 points and 6 rebounds, also did a solid job of standing up the larger Chaney without fouling, though the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Chaney did finish off a nice spin move to cut the home team’s lead to 27-26 with 55 seconds left. Gamble, who scored 12 of his 14 in the first half before fouling out, swished a baseline jumper with 34 ticks remaining and a McGaughy shot near the end of the half was off the mark.
But Winthrop’s three-point lead at the break evaporated quickly in the second frame. High Point out-scored Winthrop 48-32 in the second half, while the efficient Panthers only committed one second half turnover.
“Outrebounded them by 15, took care of the basketball, made shots; that’s a recipe for winning league games,” said Cherry.