Game #9-290: High Point Panthers at Winthrop EaglesJanuary 5, 2013 2:00 pm
My original plan for the first Saturday of 2013 was to see High Point play at Winthrop before seeing Presbyterian later that evening. But yet it seemed tempting to go back to the Colonial Life Arena and see my other school South Carolina play instead. The Gamecocks were playing a mid-major team I have followed locally in South Carolina State, so I could still see mid-major basketball there. It would also be a shorter driving day to go to Columbia and then Clinton than to go to Rock Hill and then Clinton. And I could also be at a game where the other leaders of the 800 Games Project were at last year! But the decision came down to loyalty, and my loyalty is High Point over South Carolina.
Part of me questioning whether to see High Point play was simply because I did care more about their game. I had seen HPU play in the Dr. Pepper Classic as well as against Western Michigan
and an exhibition before the start of the season. I was not always impressed with how High Point had played, and even in the game against Austin Peay they did win it was tense watching HPU hang on
. On the other hand, I have not been impressed by how South Carolina has played either. But the Gamecocks were playing SC State, a bad MEAC team that even they should be able to wallop. On the other hand, High Point was playing Winthrop which had been the hottest team in the Big South in December. If the Gamecocks somehow had a really bad loss to SCSU, it would at least be an interesting Red Line Upset and a big win for the closest mid-major to me. And there is still a lingering part of me from when I was a High Point student that would hate to see a loss to Winthrop. Not to mention that the cost saved by the cheaper Winthrop tickets would be negated by more driving (and thus more gas). It is about a 40 mile drive to Columbia against a 90 mile drive to Rock Hill. And it is a 60 mile drive on Interstate 26 from Columbia to my next destination in Clinton, against a 70 mile drive on a mostly two lane state route from Rock Hill to Clinton. Not to mention both Matt Cayuela and Gary Moore would be at the USC game as well
! After the USC doubleheader a week before
Christmas, I remember remarking to Gary that we should sometime have an 800 Games Project Champions meeting between the three of us at one game. My main interest in doing so was so we could have a picture of the top three in recaps from last year's 800 Games project, which would be a cool thing to have on this site. So these arguments made the South Carolina game look like a better choice.
But that is not the choice I made. I knew that if I went to the South Carolina game over a High Point game that I would be choosing my grad school over my undergrad school. And that would make me a bad mid-major basketball fan. I all the time go to South Carolina games over High Point games since the Millis Center is about four times as long a drive as the Colonial Life Arena. But when the choice among games within 100 miles was between High Point and South Carolina, there was no way I could choose USC. I have written on here before about why I am always a High Point fan over a South Carolina fan. I lived on High Point's campus four years, interacted with the general student body more at HPU, was not just another face in the crowd like I am at USC, and actually met some of the athletes on the teams at High Point and had classes with them (although I was in a class at USC once with the baseball team's 4 starting pitcher once). Not only am I more connected to High Point than South Carolina, as anyone on this site would agree with it is better to emphasize your loyalty to a mid-major that has fewer loyalties. I have rooted for High Point on a few occasions when they have played USC in women's basketball and men's soccer. So why would I choose a South Carolina game over a High Point game? I knew what I had to do. I had to make the drive to Rock Hill, live as a road fan again, and hope somehow things would go well. I have seen High Point lose a lot to Winthrop, but they did beat Winthrop last year both home and away. Maybe we could somehow keep it up.
Unlike last year at the Winthrop Coliseum, we did not have a big road following. Last year we brought a bus of students, but there were no students on campus to bus over. I bought a seat for $8 a few rows behind our team pass section, which was a mostly vacant area aside from a few High Point fans sitting on the other aisle from me. This made our relations with the Winthrop Coliseum staff easier than last year, where our students were harassed when they tried to move into the vacant seats upon coming down from the far corner of the arena that Winthrop placed the HPU students in. For a Winthrop-High Point game, this was fairly low key in comparison to past games that have often been heated. And I appreciated that, as I really do not like seeing games played on an emotional frenzy that leads to this game hurting you as Kyle often puts it. This would be a different game.
But early on, it seemed like it would be the same High Point team. The HPU offense relied on John Brown again, and could not shoot well when forced to go away from him. Allan Chaney still seemed to be slowed by whatever caused him to miss the Chattanooga game eight days prior. And once Brown got in foul trouble, it seemed that HPU had missed its chance. Winthrop controlled most of the first half while not dominating it. Winthrop had not yet found their Run, but the Eagles were in full control. It seemed only a matter of time when the game would become a blowout.
But yet High Point kept hanging in through their defense, and Winthrop even in controlling the game could not get on the big run that often does in the Panthers. Winthrop consistently led by about five points most of the first half, but could not create lead by much more than that and led by only three at halftime. And that was with John Brown on the bench most of the first half! If John Brown could get going, we certainly had a chance!
The presence of Brown did seem to give HPU a spark. But it was not Brown who made the big shots. A lot of big shots came from players who had not done much before, in Dejuan McGaughey and Derrell Edwards. John Brown only scored ten points, but that was no problem with everyone stepping up. A few minutes into the second half, High Point got the lead, and midway through the half became the beneficiary of the run this time! Shots by Edwards, McGaughey, and Devante Wallace gave High Point better superhoop shooting then I have seen them have before this year. This was definitely a different High Pont team that I was happy to see play. HPU the last several minutes would protect a lead of around ten points before winning 74-61. If High Point can shoot like they did this afternoon from outside while getting production inside from Brown and Chaney, they will become a team worth watching all the time.
I knew I had made the right choice going in, just for the sake of being an ethical mid-major basketball fan. And my choice was made even more right by the result of the game. Since I graduated from High Point, I have seen more South Carolina games simply because it involves less travel (and as a graduate student I was also able to get in free the last few years). So it is good that when I get the chance to see my true favorite team play. I know that there are a lot of mid-major fans who root for a major conference team as well, which is okay if you have some connection to the major school. But most of the time your deeper connection is with the mid-major, and it is more important to support your mid-major. South Carolina was also playing a mid-major, so it could have been justifiable to go to that game. But schools like South Carolina are already more protected by the economy in keeping their programs going. It is the High Points and the other Big South schools of Hoops Nation that most need our support, not just to stay "relevant" but also afloat in Division I as well.
HIGH POINT 74, at WINTHROP 61
HIGH POINT 6-7 (1-0) -- A. Weary 5-10 3-5 13; D. McGaughy 3-6 2-4 10; D. Edwards 3-7 0-4 9; A. Chaney 4-9 4-4 13; L. Cugini 1-6 0-0 3; B. Mikulic 0-3 0-0 0; D. Wallace 4-7 2-2 11; D. Wallace 4-7 2-2 11; D. Wallace 4-7 2-2 11; D. Wallace 4-7 2-2 11; D. Wallace 4-7 2-2 11; D. Wallace 4-7 2-2 11; J. Brown 5-11 0-0 10; C. Law 1-2 3-4 5; J. Cheek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 46-97 24-33 129.
WINTHROP 6-7 (0-1) -- J. Jerome 4-13 5-8 13; G. Gamble 5-10 2-3 14; A. Smith 0-6 1-2 1; D. Henry 2-8 1-2 6; J. Bourne 3-3 4-6 10; L. Brown 4-6 1-2 9; S. Johnson 3-7 2-2 8; R. King 0-0 0-0 0; S. Diop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 16-25 61.
Three-point goals: HP 13-29 (A. Chaney 1-1; J. Cheek 0-1; D. Wallace 1-2; B. Mikulic 0-3; L. Cugini 1-2; D. Edwards 3-6; D. McGaughy 2-3; A. Weary 0-1), WINT 3-14 (G. Gamble 2-3; J. Jerome 0-4; D. Henry 1-4; A. Smith 0-2; S. Johnson 0-1); Rebounds: HP 85 (D. Wallace 9), WINT 29 (J. Jerome 6); Assists: HP 11 (L. Cugini 3), WINT 10 (J. Jerome 5); Total Fouls -- HP 19, WINT 20; Fouled Out: HP-A. Chaney; WINT-L. Brown.
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