High Point came into today's noon tip at the Big South Tournament as the North Division number one seed. The Panthers got a first round bye and waited to see who won the Winthrop-Liberty game on Wednesday. The Eagles dispatched the defending champs 77-65 and despite being the South Division's fourth seed they came into today as a two point favorite over the rested Panthers.
Winthrop made Vegas look like a genius when the Eagles went into halftime up 24-23. Pat Kelsey's squad had stingy defense all day and limited Big South Offensive Player of the Year John Brown heavily in the first half. It would take a forty minute effort from the Eagles to continue to shut down Brown, who usually heats up in the second half.
Brown did heat up in the second half and eventually willed his team to a 51-49 lead with a dunk at the 5:04 mark. From there on out we were saddled with a great five minutes of basketball in a true back and forth affair.
Winthrop's Keon Moore capped his 26 point night with a big-time jumper with 49 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a three point lead. John Brown then countered with two free throws to bring the Panthers back within two and then the Eagles' Andre Smith missed the end of a one and one to give the Panthers the ball back. Adam Weary then looked like he was going to be the hero of the game with a jumper to give the Panthers the lead with 6 seconds left on the clock. Then Andre Smith happened...
Smith redeemed himself after missing a crucial free throw and nailed a huge three with less than a minute left to cement a 62-60 win and a trip to the semifinals on Saturday to play UNC Asheville or Radford. Smith was the only Eagle in double-figures beyond Moore and finished with 12 points.
Smith lamented on his missed free throw after the game:
"After that free throw I felt really bad, I feel like I left my team down. I wanted to get it back on defense and get a stop"
Winthrop is now 5-0 against High Point in the Big South Tournament. Their win today will send the Eagles to their seventeenth semifinals in the Big South Tournament.
This is the second year in a row that High Point has been bounced as the tournament's number one seed representing the North Division. The Panthers season isn't over though as they will represent the Big South in the NIT. John Brown posted 17 points and 6 boards in his first career Big South Tournament game. Scott Cherry is now 2-4 in the Big South Tournament and this is the third time in his five year tenure at High Point that the Panthers have been bounced in their opening game.