BILLINGS, Mont. – Not all experiences in the Rockies can be considered mountain-top. Azusa Pacific learned that first hand tonight.
Unranked Rocky Mountain College used a 20-7 run midway through the first half to take control of play and went on to dominate the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Azusa Pacific, thumping the Cougars 105-84, Monday evening at the Fortin Center in Billings, Mont.
The Battlin’ Bears starting backcourt of juniors Chase Sukut and Nate Miller combined for 41 points and led a hot-shooting RMC to a victory that avenged last year’s 90-78 loss to the Cougars last year in Azusa. In all 6 different Bears scored in double-figures, including junior forward Devin Uskoski, who scored 7 of his 17 points during the game-turning run in which Rocky Mountain took a 20-18 advantage and pushed it to 40-25 with just over 3 minutes left in the first half.
Azusa Pacific rallied to within 8 at 46-38 in the opening minute of the second half, but Miller nailed one of RMC’s ten 3-pointers on the night and spurred another Bear run of 21-8 that put Rocky Mountain out of reach at 67-46. The cushion ballooned to as much as 29 at 84-55 following another Uskoski bucket with 8 minutes left in the game.
“We ran into a veteran team that passed the ball extremely well and shot the ball very well tonight,” said Cougar coach Justin Leslie. “They got after us, and we did not do a good job of executing and playing a disciplined game on offense and defense.”
Azusa Pacific’s poise was hindered by 6 quick fouls, including a pair on sophomore guard Mike Danielian, who instead duplicating his 22-point performance 2 nights earlier in the same gym found himself on the bench less than 4 minutes into the game. He rallied for a team-high 17 points in just 19 minutes of play but much of it came after the game was decided. In all, 10 of the game’s first 14 fouls were whistled on Azusa Pacific, and Rocky Mountain found itself in the bonus less than 5 minutes into the game. As a result, the Bears shot 17 first-half free throws and 39 for the game.
“We played tentative because of the foul situation and then looked very much like a young inexperienced team going against a veteran group of players,” said Leslie.
Sukut finished with a game-high 23 points while Miller added 18.
With the win Rocky Mountain improves to 4-0 on the young season while Azusa Pacific falls to 1-1