Game #9-217: Western Michigan Broncos at High Point PanthersDecember 16, 2012 3:00 pm
When I was at High Point, we rarely ever played a decent team out of conference at home. Nobody could be drawn to the Millis Center that often aside from the Big South teams that had to play here and non-Division I teams. Of the 22 non-conference home games High Point played when I was a student, 12 were against teams from below the Black Line. In my four years at HPU, we only drew ten teams to the Millis Center that were not in the Big South but in Division I. These teams were Furman, Western Carolina, and Elon of the SoCon; Mount St. Mary's of the NEC, Utah Valley (now of the Great West and soon to be in the WAC, but independent then); Loyola (MD) of the Metro Atlantic; Savannah State (now of the MEAC but independent then), Gardner-Webb (now a conference opponent but was Atlantic Sun then), and Longwood twice (an independent that finally will now be a conference opponent this season). It has not exactly been top quality opponents who come to play High Point in High Point. But athletic director Craig Keilitz has worked towards changing that. Keilitz comes from a marketing background like many HPU administrators, and image is what matters. Playing bad teams does not help our image, so Keilitz has worked with his coaches towards better scheduling that was absent when I was a student. HPU only plays two non-Division I teams this year, unlike three or four in the past. Keilitz last year finally got an ACC team to come visit HPU, bringing in his previous employer Wake Forest where he was the director of sports marketing. The deal the Panthers signed was to play four guarantee games at Winston-Salem without a guaranteed paycheck, with a home game against the Demon Deacons sandwiched in the middle of the five year contract. Today the Panthers would play Western Michigan, as part of a home-and-home agreement that Keilitz might have had a hand in as well. Keilitz's father was the athletic director at WMU rival Central Michigan, and the younger Keilitz got his career started at CMU as well. It is not often HPU plays a school at home that has FBS football, even if Western Michigan and the MAC aren't quite top-notch hoops. So between that and this being the closest Division I game to me on this Sunday after finals week, I decided to make this one of my few visits to my alma mater for this game.
Of course, Western Michigan did not come here until after finals had concluded. Our students largely do not get to see a top level basketball team as decent non-conference teams play here when we don't have full home advantage. Of those ten games we played at home against D1 non-Big South teams when I was at High Point, six of them came over either Christmas or Thanksgving break. We only averaged one home game a year against a non-conference D1 opponent when school was in session. The same was true last year when I saw High Point play Wofford
en route to seeing family in Ohio. And it would be true five days from this game when the Panthers would face Eastern Kentucky. It is also true for other Big South schools and other teams below the Red Line. Coastal Carolina would get to play Clemson at home later in this week, but without students. Longwood played Seton Hall one year over Christmas break as well. The reason you see this more at this time of year is that not only is homecourt advantage weakened for the mid-major, it would be weakened as well for the major if they stayed home. Big teams have less incentive to schedule guarantee games at this time of year. They can either decide to play a big-name opponent at home and draw crowd, or throw a bone to lower teams and head there. This might be part of the reason you see more Red Line Upsets at this time of year, as the big schools might be more willing to walk right into a trap game.
Of course, Western Michigan is not quite a big time school. The Broncos are below the Red Line as well, and barely beat High Point in Kalamazoo a couple weeks prior over Thanksgiving break. But when you are a Big South team, playing a better than average MAC team is considered to be a top-level home game. Western Michigan is pretty decent most of the time, although I can remember seeing them get blown out in another Christmas break game a few years ago at Southern Illinois. While I like more Division I games no matter how you can get them, I am not always a big fan of home-and-homes as it limits the number of different teams you get to face over the course of the season. But it is much better than hosting a super guarantee game
against the likes of Florida Christian or Warren Wilson. I was happy about seeing a real Division I team at the Millis Center outside of the Big South, since I was not able to make most of those non-conference games at home when I was a student. Over break I just went to games either at South Carolina or to SIU games on vacation. But now that I live three hours away, I can only go to games when they are convenient. And this was a convenient enough trip to see the Panthers play a MAC team. But I had low expectations for how this game would turn out. This was a better team than High Point usually faces, and that generally means a loss is expected. If the opponent is bad enough but well-known enough, that can motivate a team. But Western Michigan is not in one of those categories, so I knew I could expect a loss.
Early on, it at least looked like it would be at least close. Both teams traded baskets early, and the teams went back and forth in being successful. With just over 12 minutes until halftime, the game was tied at 10. Maybe High Point could hang with a MAC team, and if they just improved a little from the game in Kalamazoo maybe High Point could win at home! Beating Western Michigan wouldn't be that great, but it would be above average for the Big South. But then The Run started. After being tied 10-10 with just over 12 minutes left in the half, the Panthers trailed 31-10 with three minutes until halftime. The Run has become a tradition at High Point lately. I remember a game at Wofford two years ago where the game was lost on The Run at the start of the game. Against Appalachian State later that season in the BracketBuster, t was a game of runs where a last minute High Point run was not enough. The Run can win us games, like it did for us in Boone against Appalachian State earlier this season. It can lose us games as well, like what Matt Cayuela saw against William & Mary
. But for this game, The Run took us out of the game in the middle portion of the second half. It is frustrating as a High Point fan to see one bad stretch being the reason that losses often occur. I think a major reason for The Run is that the coaching style by Scott Cherry focuses on full court pressing and high energy basketball. When it works, The Run happens to our benefit. When it doesn't work, The Run loses the game for us. I saw this happen a lot at South Carolina when they were coached by Cherry's mentor Darrin Horn. You see The Run happen a lot in basketball when the players are playing with full energy. If you have a solid backcourt that can run with the ball like what Horn had at South Carolina with Devan Downey, this style of play can be beneficial. But Horn's teams were less successful after Downey graduated, and now Cherry encounters the problem of losing Nick Barbour and Shay Shine. The Panthers have two very good forwards in transfer Allan Chaney and redshirt freshman John Brown. This is a better frontcourt than any we have had recently, but it is also a worse backcourt than any HPU team since Jerry Steele's last team in 2003. And in Our Game backcourts usually make the difference. It also hurt that in this game that Brown and Chaney were getting points but were also being badly out-rebounded by a WMU team with more size than anybody in the Big South.
At halftime with the game out of hand already (HPU was down 37-16) I looked to find Matt Cayuela
who was in what is normally the student section at High Point. I could not spot Matt right away, as he blended in more than I expected wearing a High Point t-shirt he got with a Living Social deal. I always enjoy talking with someone I know who likes college basketball but is less familiar with High Point, as it gives me more to talk about. It also helped distract both of us from the game going on, which for the most part was bad to watch. Western Michigan continued to hold their lead to around 20 until about eight minutes left. Then all of the sudden The Run started again, and this one was for us. Western Michigan's lack of athleticism hurt as they could not outrun the Panther defense and was forced into numerous turnovers. HPU also started to make their shots as well, although not as much from behind the arc as would have been helpful. The only problem though was The Run from back in the first half. The Run of the second half would have to be extra special for it to change the result. And while we made shots, we could not get the game back to two possessions until it was under a minute left. Brown with ten seconds left could have set up a three to make it one possession and keep the Panthers in it, but instead decided to try for an easy dunk that kept WMU's lead safe at four. The Broncos would then get free throws to make the final score 70-64.
It is nice to see that we have improved in our scheduling. These kinds of games will go far to helping our image locally and gives our basketball program potential to grow. But the only way we can ultimately grow is by winning these games. And we are not at that level yet. We need to focus on what it takes to win as a basketball team. That means disciplined work where each player does their part to win. It is nice to see a different culture at High Point where we view ourselves at the level to play at home against higher mid-majors. But the culture of winning still is not here at High Point yet. Once these cultures can fit with each other, the Millis Center will be a place to see great basketball.
WESTERN MICHIGAN 70, at HIGH POINT 64
WESTERN MICHIGAN 7-3 (0-0) -- R. Penn 2-8 2-2 6; B. Pokley 2-9 0-0 6; S. Whittington 6-9 3-5 15; A. Richie 0-6 5-8 5; N. Hutcheson 4-7 9-12 19; D. Paul 4-9 2-5 10; C. Tava 4-4 0-0 8; J. Klein 1-3 0-0 2; T. Perry 2-2 0-2 5; D. Loney 0-0 0-0 0; H. Hoerdemann 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 19-32 70.
HIGH POINT 4-5 (0-0) -- J. Brown 7-16 6-8 20; A. Chaney 7-13 6-7 20; A. Weary 1-8 1-2 3; L. Cugini 3-5 0-2 8; D. McGaughy 1-8 1-1 3; D. Edwards 0-5 4-4 4; J. Simms 1-2 0-0 2; C. Law 2-4 0-0 4; J. Cheek 0-1 0-0 0; B. Mikulic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-62 18-24 64.
Three-point goals: WMU 5-18 (B. Pokley 2-6; N. Hutcheson 2-5; H. Hoerdemann 0-1; A. Richie 0-4; J. Klein 0-1; T. Perry 1-1), HP 2-14 (A. Chaney 0-2; L. Cugini 2-3; D. Edwards 0-4; D. McGaughy 0-2; A. Weary 0-3); Rebounds: WMU 49 (D. Paul 10), HP 25 (A. Chaney 9); Assists: WMU 8 (B. Pokley 2), HP 10 (A. Chaney 2); Total Fouls -- WMU 24, HP 26; Fouled Out: WMU-None; HP-None.