High Point withstands Longwood rally, tops Lancers 72-67

longwood logoDevante Wallace scored 16 points as High Point withstood Longwood’s second-half surge and downed the Lancers, 72-67, Monday evening at the Millis Center.

With Longwood (6-14, 2-5 Big South) charging back from a double-digit deficit in the closing minutes, Wallace sank a deep three-pointer with a hand in his face to push High Point’s lead from four points to seven. Wallace’s trey was the final nail High Point (14-4, 5-1 Big South) needed to bury the Lancers, who fell behind by as much as 18 points in the first half before storming back with 45 points after halftime. The second-half surge cut High Point’s lead to 62-58 with 3:27 remaining, but Wallace drained the game-changing three-pointer two minutes later to give the Panthers the cushion they needed.

“I have to give credit to [High Point’s] defense because we only shot 26 percent in the first half, but I thought there were a whole bunch of shots that we’ve made throughout the year that just didn’t go down,” Longwood head coach Jayson Gee said. “You have to make those shots to win on the road, and we didn’t.”

A sluggish start doomed the Lancers, as Wallace was part of a defensive effort that held Longwood to seven first-half field goals and limited leading scorer Quincy Taylor to just two free throws in the first 20 minutes. Taylor came alive with 17 points in the second half and Damarion Geter hit a floater to cut High Point’s lead to 62-58 with 3:27 remaining, but the comeback bid stalled when Longwood came up empty on three of their next four possessions and endured a scoreless drought of more than two minutes.

Wallace made Longwood pay for the missed opportunities with his three-pointer at 1:14, which was his fourth trey of the game. He went on to fill the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal, and was one of four High Point double-figure scorers, leading Lorenzo Cugini and Adam Weary who had 15 points apiece, and John Brown who added 14.

The Lancers managed just 22 points in the first half for their lowest scoring half since opening conference play. High Point, meanwhile, buried 6-of-13 three-pointers in the opening period to carry a 38-22 lead into the break.

“We just didn’t do enough offensively in the first half to come away with a victory,” Gee said. “When you play a good team, you have to be able to execute. We executed decently in the first half, but the shots just didn’t go down. In order for us to be effective, particularly on the road, we have to make those shots.”

Longwood freshman and Greensboro, N.C., native Kanayo Obi-Rapu matched a career high with 11 points in his homecoming while knocking down a career-high three three-pointers and adding two assists, one block and a steal in just 16 minutes of action. He and Leron Fisher joined Taylor in double figures, and freshman Ryan Badowski added nine points.

The five-point loss continues a trend of near-wins for the Lancers, who have been within two possessions of taking the lead in the final minute of four of their five Big South losses.

“What I’m very, very proud of is how hard we fought,” Gee said. “These guys have a great way of wiping the slate clean,” Gee said. “That’s a credit to them and their character, and our leader, too. Quincy will be disappointed tonight, but he’ll go back at it at practice. They have not allowed these close losses to linger and carry over, to be honest with you. And we don’t have time for that. We’ve preached all year long we can’t feel sorry for ourselves when things don’t go our way, and what we try to do is build on the positive that we did fight back, that we didn’t give up. Guys have really rallied around that, and we need to continue to do so.”