HIGH POINT, N.C. -- The High Point University men's basketball team battled Eastern Kentucky in a game that changed leads four times and was tied eight times in the second half, ultimately taking a 73-70 loss to the Colonels on Friday evening at the Millis Center. Redshirt-freshman John Brown had 20 points and 10 rebounds, including 18 points in the second half.
"We just needed one or two more plays down the stretch, it was a battle," said HPU head coach Scott Cherry. "We played well, even in the first half when we were down, we just had some shots going in and out. Down the stretch we shot well and did what we wanted. That was a good Eastern Kentucky team and they made free throws and made plays in the end."
Eastern Kentucky hit 16-of-20 free throws in the second half, including nine of their last 12. Guard Mike DiNunno hit his last four free throws and went 6-for-6 in the game. He led all scorers with 22 points and had five rebounds and five assists. Corey Walden scored 13 points with six rebounds and Glenn Cosey scored 12.
Brown's 20 points marked his sixth time this season with at least 20 and it was his second double-double. Graduate student Allan Chaney scored 14 points (11 in the second half) and had five rebounds and four assists. The two combined to shoot 11-for-16 from the floor and 7-for-7 from the line in the second half. Senior Jairus Simms had seven assists off the bench and junior Derrell Edwards scored 11 points.
High Point fell to 4-6 while Eastern Kentucky improved to 10-2 on the season.
The game was even in the early minutes, the Colonels leading 9-7 after High Point's Edwards hit a free throw with 14:25 remaining in the first half. A DiNunno three-pointer was the first of 10-straight points by EKU, stretching the lead to 12 less than five minutes later. EKU still led by 12 with 6:01 left before the Panthers got a trey from Branimir Mikulic, going on a 10-4 run. HPU cut the lead to 30-24 on a jumper by Dejuan McGaughy in the final seconds of the first half.
Eastern Kentucky hit the first two shots of the second half to take a 34-24 lead before the Panthers went on a 13-4 run to cut it down to one (38-37). Brown stole the ball from Cosey and dunked it with 12:57 to go. After a pair of free throws by EKU's Marcus Lewis, Brown tied the game with a three-point play and freshman Lorenzo Cugini sank a three-pointer to make it 43-40 Panthers with 11:10 remaining.
The Colonels kept the pressure on in the last 10 minutes, including three treys in the next four minutes, but it was the Panthers who led 58-56 with 5:08 on the clock. A layup by Walden and a pair of free throws by DiNunno put Eastern Kentucky ahead for good, the Panthers resorting to fouling down the stretch.
It was within two points four times in the final two minutes but EKU kept hitting its free throws. A Brown dunk made it 70-68 and a Chaney dunk made it 72-70 with five seconds on the clock. With three seconds left, McGaughy fouled Cosey, who hit his first free throw and missed the second. Brown's last-second heave from just inside half court missed.
After shooting 25.7 percent from the floor in the first half, the Panthers shot 51.6 percent in the second. HPU hit all 12 of its free throws in the second half and went 15-for-17 in the game. Eastern Kentucky shot 44.0 percent from the floor, including 50.0 in the second half.
High Point is back in action after Christmas when the Panthers play in the Dr. Pepper Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., Dec. 28-29. The Panthers play the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in the first round on the 28th at 7 p.m. and play either Austin Peay or Utah Valley State the next day.
HPU/ WFMY News 2 Sports