AZUSA, Calif. – Justin Sapp will never forget his first shot as a Cougar. It was a game-winner, a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from the right side. Picture perfect.
For such a shot, though, there was no fist-pumping, chest-bumping celebration. Granted, it came with just over 3 minutes left to play – in the first half. But it was the shot that put Azusa Pacific over the hump, the points that would not be matched by the foe. Sapp, the former Glendora High sharpshooter who missed the Cougars’ first 9 games of the season with a back injury and then didn’t attempt a shot in 6 minutes of action in his Cougar debut at Cal State San Bernardino last Friday, came off the bench late in the first half in the game vs. Trinity Western University Wednesday and in less than a minute of play, drained his first shot, giving Azusa Pacific 55 points, a total that would not be matched by TWU in the Cougars’ 115-52 victory.
Azusa Pacific got some much-needed holiday cheer in its stocking with a 63-point win, the Cougars’ largest margin of victory since an 82-point verdict (138-56) over Puget Sound Christian College in 2005. Thirteen Cougars played with 5 scoring in double figures and several enjoying career nights. For Sapp it was his breakout night. He knocked down his first 2 shots, both 3-pointers, on his way to an 8-point, 3-assist effort in 12 minutes of action.
The Cougars combined deft perimeter shooting with an overwhelming physical presence around the basket to overwhelm Trinity International. The Cougars made a season-high 16 3-pointers, the third-highest single-game product in program history while, centers David Burgess and Chidi Ajufo combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds in 31 minutes of play to run roughshod on the Spartan frontline.
Ajufo led the offensive onslaught with a team- and career-high 16 points, producing 4 thunderous second-half dunks including one that left even the TWU bench with jaws dropped in amazement. Burgess added his second double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Cougars sprinted from the opening gate, producing a 20-point lead less than 7 minutes into the game. Todd Martin, who scored 12 points on the night, and Mike Danielian, rained 3-pointers in the early-going and when Burgess converted a lay-up off a nifty pass from Ashton Roberts, the Cougars found themselves up 25-5 in the blink of an eye. Trinity Western had no answer for a hot-shooting set of Cougars that made 58-percent of their first-half shots, including a 9-for-17 clip from the arc, on their way to a 61-21 halftime lead.
First-year Cougar coach Justin Leslie cleared the bench and used a variety of line-ups the rest of the evening, allowing some back-ups to get some notable opportunities with the first unit. Roberts took advantage of the situation and registered 11 points and a game-high 8 assists, both career high numbers for the collegiate rookie. Davon Roberts (no relation) chipped in with 12 points and 6 rebounds. Eight different Cougars made at least 1 3-pointer with Martin, Danielian and Peter Bond all canning a trio of treys.
Azusa Pacific has now won 4 of its past 5 games and improves to 7-4 on the season. Trinity Western, which is out of Langley, B.C. just east of Vancouver, closes out its short Southern California swing and returns north with a 4-10 record.