AZUSA, Calif. – First UCLA, now USC.
NAIA power Azusa Pacific has released its 2008-09 men’s basketball schedule, and the Cougars will open with a first-ever visit to USC to taken on the Trojans in the Galen Center on Nov. 3 in an exhibition contest.
This marks the second straight year that the Cougars tip off the new season against an NCAA major school. Last year, they visited famed Pauley Pavilion to play UCLA to start the season.
“The UCLA game was a great experience for the whole Azusa Pacific community, including the players,” said second-year Cougar coach Justin Leslie, “and I expect the same will be true with the USC game. The Galen Center is beautiful, and it will be exciting to take on a terrific program in venue that is so spectacular.”
The USC game tips off the 44th season of Cougar basketball. Later in the week on Nov. 7 the Cougars begin playing for keeps when they visit NAIA power Westminster College for a 4-team weekend tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. They return home to host 10 of their next 11 games, including a second exhibition contest against the Afghanistan national team on Nov. 29.
Meanwhile, they will host another NAIA power in Trevecca Nazarene University (Tenn.) on Nov. 20 and welcome back to Azusa Pacific former long time rivals Grand Canyon University (Nov. 18) and the University of La Verne (Nov. 25), which are making their first visits to the Canyon City in 27 and 19 years, respectively.
“We need to be tested and proven early in the season and this schedule should get us headed in the right direction,” Leslie added. “We’ll have ample chances to identify our strengths and build our cohesiveness in the first month of the season.”
The winningest program in Golden State Athletic Conference history, Azusa Pacific takes a quick yet critical dip into the GSAC waters in early December. The GSAC opener may prove to be the biggest game of the year when the Cougars host California Baptist University Dec. 6 in a match-up between 2 of the favorites for the GSAC crown this year. The Cougars then visit The Master’s College on Dec. 12 before returning home for 4 more nonconference games.
Azusa Pacific returns to GSAC play at defending GSAC champ Concordia University Jan. 3 and then closes out the regular season March 2 at home against Westmont College.
The 15th Annual GSAC Postseason Tournament is slated for March 5, 7 and 10 with first-round games at the 4 highest-seed sites followed by the semifinals and the championship game at a site yet to be determined.
Azusa Pacific hopes the season will end with its 14th straight berth into the NAIA Championship Tournament, which will be staged in the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Mo., March 18-24.
Click here to view the complete 2008-09 Azusa Pacific men’s basketball schedule.
Ticket information for the USC game and the rest of the Cougar season will be available by early October.