RICHMOND, Va. – After VCU defeated High Point on the road in the final seconds of last year's season opener, the Panthers were looking to return the favor on the Rams' home court this year. High Point shot 67-percent from the field in the second half and scored the final 14 points of the game to hand VCU an 82-67 loss in its season-opening rematch Friday evening at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
VCU (0-1) pulled within a point three times in the last 7:35 but High Point never relinquished the lead and went 8-for-11 at the free throw line in the final minutes to seal its first win over the Rams.
"As a whole, this loss is disappointing," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham. "A lot of things that we talked about, and knew we needed to do, for whatever reason, we weren't doing them. Give credit to High Point because they came out and did the little things tonight and we didn't. Bottom line is we didn't defend like we're capable of defending; we didn't rebound like we're capable of rebounding. We had a couple of chances on offense to make a run, but we got away from doing the little things that had gotten us to that point.
"All the things that we need to fix, and that we talked about coming into this game, I feel like we know because we're better than this. It's a matter of stepping up and doing the little things that we talk about every day and work on in practice."
Senior guard Andrea Barbour scored 14 of her team-high 18 points in the first half, while classmate Courtney Hurt finished with 16 points and a team-best eight rebounds. Freshman Christina Carter chipped in nine points on 4-of-6 shooting off the bench, including a pair of assists and a steal in her collegiate debut.
High Point's Shamia Brown led all scorers with a game-high 29 points (13-for-17) to go along with six rebounds and three steals. Three other Panthers contributed double-figure scoring with Erin Reynolds adding 19 points.
High Point (1-0) forced a series of early VCU turnovers and jumped out to a 6-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest. The Rams settled down, however, and reeled off 10 of the next 15 points and pulled within 11-10 with 13:57 showing. A triple by Laura Whitt then gave the Panthers a four-point lead before VCU stormed back to build its largest lead of the game.
A fast break layup by sophomore Robyn Parks less than a minute later ignited a 19-6 VCU run that saw the Rams take their first lead on a layup by junior Daphne Adebayo at the 9:36 mark. High Point would go on to knot the score again on the following possession before Barbour nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing. Senior guard Jennifer Lane then capped off the run with a trey that put the Rams in front 32-22 with 4:02 left in the half.
VCU held 10-point advantage with less than two minutes to go before the break, but High Point converted back-to-back three-point plays and eventually pulled within one on a 3-pointer by Whitt with 16 seconds remaining. Barbour drove to the basket and hit a layup with four seconds left and the Rams took a 38-35 advantage into the locker room.
"We talked about putting yourself in a position where that 10-point lead goes to a 15- or 20-point lead, versus a three-point lead at halftime," Cunningham said. "High Point took advantage of it. They stood up and made plays. It just didn't seem like we were ever able to get into a rhythm tonight for whatever reason."
It didn't take High Point long to regain the lead in the second half as a pair of layups by Cheyenne Parker less than 40 seconds in put the Panthers back in front 39-38. The lead would change hands four more times over the next seven minutes.
Trailing by four with 13:12 remaining, High Point used a 12-2 spurt to take its largest lead at the time, 60-53, with 10 minutes to go. VCU continued to battle and a jumper by Hurt sparked an 8-0 run and the Rams regained the lead on a layup by Barbour with 8:05 left. However, it was the last time VCU would lead as a bucket by Brown at the 7:35 mark allowed High Point to move back in front for good.
The Rams pulled within a point three times over the next four minutes but High Point scored the final 14, while hitting 8-for-11 at the free throw line down the stretch.
Friday's loss was VCU's first in a season opener since Nov. 20, 2004, Cunningham's second year at the helm. The Rams had won six straight openers.
VCU faces Liberty on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., in Lynchburg, Va. The Rams will look to avenge last season's 59-57 setback at the Verizon Wireless Arena.