IRVINE, Calif. – The Cougars should have figured it wasn’t going to be their night.
A seldom-used Concordia reserve who entered the game with just one 3-pointer and only 21 points scored on the season, canned 3 treys and tallied 14 points – all in the first half alone. And when he wasn’t torching the nets in a rare show of perimeter promise, Azusa Pacific was scoring baskets for Concordia when a pair of Cougars collided in air on a rebound and pushed the ball back into the bucket for the Eagles.
But in truth, none of that is what did in the Cougars. Rather it was a relentless pressure defense that led the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Concordia University to a convincing 81-56 Golden State Athletic Conference over Azusa Pacific Saturday evening.
Concordia’s in-your-face defense frustrated Azusa Pacific from the opening tip, barring Cougar guards from establishing an offensive scheme, let alone a rhythm for night. Azusa Pacific turned the ball over on its first 3 possessions, establishing a tone for the night, and then began to wilt under the constant defensive pressure, particularly from Eagle point guard Terrence Worthy. Down by only 4 at 21-17, the Cougars missed 6 of their next 7 shots and committed 4 more turnovers. In turn, Concordia feasted, opening a 34-20 lead following a pair of Rafael DaSilva free throws and pushing its advantage to a whopping 17 points at 42-25 by halftime.
Azusa Pacific missed 13 of its first 22 shots while Concordia drained 17 of its first 30, including 5 three-pointers to account for the substantial halftime cushion.
With no outlet of relief against Concordia’s swarming defense, Azusa Pacific continued to struggle at the offensive end. Worthy and his back-up Keith Lawrence never let Azusa Pacific get any closer than within 14 in the second half, and Concordia managed a 20-point advantage over the final 8 minutes of the game.
Lawrence tallied a game-high 15 points, including 13 in the second half, to lead 5 different Eagles in double-digit scoring. Chris Minardo added 14 points, all in just 12 minutes of play in the first half. At one point early in the game he scored 8 straight points for the Eagles, hitting consecutive treys from the top of the key to twice dash Cougar hopes of taking a lead, something Azusa Pacific never achieved for the contest.
Though Worthy had just 5 points, he picked Cougar pockets 4 times and spearheaded an Eagle defense that induced 20 Azusa Pacific turnovers, 12 of which came off Concordia steals.
With the win, Concordia improves to 6-1 overall, 2-1 in the GSAC, while Azusa Pacific falls to 5-4 overall, 1-2 in the GSAC.