IRVINE, Calif. – For most of the season Azusa Pacific has looked pretty for 35 minutes of play each game. However, it’s that last 5 minutes that seem to undo the Cougars, and once again it cost them a key victory.
The NAIA’s No. 4-ranked Concordia used a 15-7 run over the final 5 minutes of play to rally for a 66-63 victory over Azusa Pacific before a sparse crowd of 321 in CU Arena Saturday night.
The Cougars committed 4 of their 17 turnovers in the closing minutes, including back-to-back miscues during an Eagle 6-0 run, and missed 3 key free throws, allowing Concordia to rally from a 56-51 deficit to take the lead at 57-56 on a Ben Smith jumper.
Concordia then secured the lead for good on Cameron Gliddon’s lone trey of the night, assuming a 60-57 advantage with 3:35 remaining. Azusa Pacific had a chance to tie the game in the final 10 seconds but center David Burgess could not convert a pair of hotly-contested put-backs, and Concordia escaped with its third straight win at home over Azusa Pacific.
The Eagles, who were playing without All-GSAC guard Terrance Worthy, were instead paced by a balanced effort from Smith, Phil Friesen, and Eric Beal, who all scored 11 points. Tyler Gottstein added 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Azusa Pacific was lead by Dominique Johnson’s game-high 19 points, including 17 in the second half. Burgess, who was the focus of the Eagle defense, tallied just 7 points on 3-for-12 shooting, but he did grab 15 rebounds. Kimarley Williams put together his finest game of the season with his first-ever double-double, 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
Azusa Pacific, which led 28-26 at halftime, never allowed Concordia to hold the lead for the final 10 minutes of the first half and until Smith’s jumper with 4:21 left in the game. The Cougars led by as much as 8 at 41-33 just 4 minutes into the second half following a Burgess jumper. Capped by another Smith triple, Concordia came back to knot the game at 45-all. Cougar freshman Marshall Johnson answered with his own 3-ball to keep Azusa Pacific in control of play until the closing minutes.
With the victory Concordia improves to 12-1 on the season and retains first place in the GSAC with a perfect 3-0 mark. Azusa Pacific falls to 8-5 overall, 1-2 in the GSAC.