Charleston Southern fought back from a 14-point second half deficit to draw as close as two late, but High Point held on for a 76-70 win over the Bucs at the Millis Center on Monday night.
CSU (11-14, 5-7 BSC) trailed 60-46 with 12:47 remaining before staging a 16-4 run to cut its deficit to two on an Arlon Harper layup at the 4:48 mark. High Point (12-13, 8-4 BSC) pushed its lead back up to eight, only to see the Bucs crawl within three on a three by Harper and a baseline bank shot by Will Saunders. CSU had possession trailing 71-68 with 40 seconds left following an HPU missed free throw, but Sheldon Strickland was called for an illegal screen and the Panthers hit enough free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
CSU senior Matt Kennedy paced an excellent offensive effort for the Bucs' three starting guards with 19 points. Strickland and Harper each chipped in 17, with Strickland burying five of the Bucs' 11 made threes on the night.
Defending HPU's three-point prowess proved to be difficult for CSU, as the Panthers knocked down 7-of-11 attempts from deep in the first half and 11-of-22 overall. HPU junior guard Devante Wallace paced the three-point barrage with six treys and 18 points. The Panthers' John Brown was a major factor as well, as the Big South Preseason Player of the Year finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists and made some critical baskets to hold off CSU's rally.
High Point led 37-30 at halftime after drilling seven threes in the opening stanza. HPU's Anthony Lindauer and Jorge Perez-Laham connected on triples for the Panthers first two baskets of the second half, accounting for a 46-36 lead. The Bucs answered back with seven of the next nine to draw within five. Strickland sailed through a three, and Kennedy began a second half that saw him pour in 14 points with a pair of mid-range jumpers.
The Panthers took control from there, though, compiling a 12-3 spurt to take a 60-46 advantage on a Brown tip-in. Brown also threw down an emphatic right-handed slam dunk putback during the surge. Wallace was the catalyst for HPU's run, as he hit one of his six treys to begin the critical stretch. Lorenzo Cugini added an old-fashioned three-point play for HPU during the juncture.
Kennedy and Harper carried CSU back into the game by scoring 14 of its 16 points during the 16-4 run that cut HPU's lead to 64-62. Harper began the comeback attempt with a mid-range jumper and added a right-handed jam off a steal to bring the Bucs within eight. Kennedy added a three moments later to cut the deficit to seven, before he and Harper put in back-to-back layups to make it a one-score game and set the stage for the final sequence.
CSU opened up an early 7-3 lead behind layups by Harper and Kennedy and three made free throws by Saunders. The Bucs led for most of the first ten minutes of the first half, and were still ahead by three following Strickland's first of five threes at the 12:22 mark. Saah Nimley connected on his only field goal of the night to move CSU in front 18-16 with 9:40 left until halftime, but that was the last lead of the stanza the Bucs would enjoy.
High Point held CSU to just one field goal over the ensuing five minutes as it ripped off a 19-5 run to forge a 35-23 advantage with 4:40 remaining. Three of Wallace's triples came during the spurt, the last of which ended the run. HPU's Jorge Perez-Laham sank one as well over the five-minute stretch. The Bucs cut into the deficit by halftime behind four straight points from Harper and a Strickland triple. Cliff Cornish made a foul line jumper to close out the first half scoring and give High Point a 37-30 lead at intermission.
The Bucs continue a three-game in six days road trip Wednesday at UNC Asheville. Tipoff at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C. is slated for 7 p.m.