AZUSA, Calif. – Azusa Pacific rallied from 16 down but couldn’t close the deal in the final minutes and fell to Vanguard University, 73-68, in a Golden State Athletic Conference game at the Felix Event Center Saturday evening.
Sophomore guard Greg Scott scored a team-high 17 points, including 8 in the final 5 minutes that proved vital in keeping Azusa Pacific at bay. The Lions, who led by 16 at one point in the first half and were still up 9 at 40-31 at halftime, needed Scott’s clutch play not once but twice.
Behind Todd Martin’s sterling second-half play the Cougars erased Vanguard’s substantial advantage. Martin scored 6 of his 15 points on 3 straight possessions to get the Cougars back within striking distance, and when Mike Danielian converted a nifty reverse lay-up with just under 11 minutes left in the game, Azusa Pacific was down by just 2 at 54-52.
However, Vanguard answered with a 15-5 run, ignited by Scott’s across-the-key pass which resulted in a resounding Arvydas Vaitiekus dunk and capped by a couple of Scott long jumpers, including a trey, that put the Lions back up by 12 with 4:41 to play.
Azusa Pacific, though, did not go quietly into the night, with Martin again leading the way. He scored 7 straight points to kick-start a set of Cougars who seemingly were rather lethargic through much of the night. However, a newly rejuvenated Cougar squad rallied back, twice pulling to within 3 in the final 2 minutes, and on 2 separate possessions they had chances to tie the game but neither 3-point attempt drew iron.
Vanguard took control at the outset of the game. Tony Trajeceski and Dennis Heenan connected on back-to-back treys to key an 8-0 run that moved the Lions’ out to a 23-14 advantage midway through the first half, and the Cougars couldn’t muster any retaliation, going dead in the water by missing 8 of their next 9 shots while committing 3 turnovers. The Lions led by as much as 16 at 39-23, capping a 24-9 burst that spread over 8 minutes of play. Azusa Pacific didn’t help itself either by missing 9 of 16 free throws in the first half.
Senior forward Davon Roberts was the Cougars’ saving grace, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the first half. He also snagged 10 rebounds, a game-high honor he shared with David Burgess, who added 9 points as well.
Heenen scored 16 points to aid Scott’s effort, and Vaitiekus chipped in with 14, including 10 in the second half.
For the second straight game, the Cougars struggled from the floor, shooting at just a .397 (23-for-58) clip while missing 17-of-21 at the arc.
With the victory Vanguard improves to 11-4 overall, 5-2 in the GSAC, just a game out of first place. Azusa Pacific falls to 10-7 overall, 3-4 in the GSAC.