The UNC Asheville Bulldogs men’s basketball team lost 69-73 to the High Point University Panthers Wednesday night, but it felt like they lost to one man, John Brown, High Point’s senior leader. Brown finished the game with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
The teams entered the night separated by one game in the Big South Conference, with UNCA alone at the top of the rankings. Throughout the first half, the teams looked very similar. Both teams struggled to find a rhythm and both turned the ball over often.
When Kevin Vannatta, UNCA sophomore guard, scored an old-fashioned 3-point play with six-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, he sent John Brown to the bench with two fouls. UNCA finished the half only down three despite High Point earning 14 more rebounds than the Bulldogs.
“I thought our defense was good, we just didn’t get the job done on the glass,” said Nick McDevitt, UNCA’s men basketball coach.
Brown returned in the second half and sank 13 of High Point’s next 17 points as UNCA shared their scoring amongst Vannatta, Dylan Smith, Raekwon Miller and Dwayne Sutton. Hard work on defense and a Smith 3-pointer brought UNCA even with the Panthers at 46-46 with 12:30 left in the game.
Later, Brown received his third foul against Will Weeks who hit one of two free throws and tied the game again 52-52 at the eight-minute mark. The Bulldogs trailed the rest of the game after Brown dunked on a follow up to a teammate’s miss, then immediately converted to defense and hustled back to block Sam Hughes’ shot.
High Point thwarted UNCA’s efforts on defense as Brown completed his own old fashioned 3-point play at the very end of the 30-second shot clock and later the possession arrow gave the ball back to High Point following a jump ball.
UNCA caused three High Point turnovers in the final minute-and-a-half but would miss two late 3-pointers, allowing the Panthers to stay ahead. Dylan Smith led the Bulldogs with 19 points for the game, all of which he scored in the second half.
UNCA and High Point share the top spot in the Big South Conference with 6-2 records. The Bulldogs drop to 13-7 overall and they return home to Kimmel Arena for a Saturday afternoon game against Presbyterian College.