EL CAJON, Calif. -- Senior center Dave Burgess scored a game-high 24 points, tying his career high, and he was 1 of 7 Cougars who scored during a 29-4 second-half run as Azusa Pacific handed San Diego Christian its most lopsided GSAC defeat this season, a 75-51 decision Thursday night in El Cajon.
The Cougars led from wire-to-wire, scoring the game’s first 7 points and leading by as many as 15 points in the first half when Burgess capped a 9-0 run that resulted in a 25-10 advantage with 12:22 left in the first half. San Diego Christian trimmed the lead to 9 points by halftime, 36-27, then opened the second half with a 9-2 run to pull to within 2 at 38-36 with 17:15 remaining in the game. Burgess answered with the first 2 of 14 second-half points, and the teams traded baskets to a 44-40 Cougar lead.
“This was really a great matchup for (Dave),” Cougar head coach Justin Leslie said. “He was able to get the ball deep in the post, and when he made a strong move, he was able to go over both shoulders effectively. There wasn’t really anything fancy that he did, but he worked hard for position, and once he got position, he made some good, solid moves.”
San Diego Christian missed its next 11 shots from the field over the next 12 minutes, scoring just 6 points on free throws before Matt Sanders coaxed a 3-pointer down with less than 2 minutes remaining. Meanwhile, the Cougars reeled off 21 consecutive points to take a 65-40 lead, part of a 37-15 game-ending run over the final 17 minutes.
“Tonight, our team came out with a focus and a hunger on the defensive end, and it carried us,” Leslie said. “It frustrated (San Diego Christian), and they weren’t able to get a lot of quality looks. Keeping that focus on the defensive end and doing those little things, that’s what enabled the scoring margin to be what it was.”
Junior guard Dominique Johnson scored 16 points, hitting 6-of-8 from the field with a trey, and freshman guard Marshall Johnson added 10 points and 2 steals in a balanced Azusa Pacific effort. Burgess grabbed a team-high 6 rebounds, sparking the Cougars to a 37-28 rebounding edge for the game that included a 22-10 second-half margin.
“The thing that impressed me the most was the way we rebounded in the second half,” Leslie said. “We were tougher when it counted tonight. In the first half, we took 7 threes and settled (for shots) a little bit, but in the second half, we only took 2 threes, and we imposed our will around the basket.”
Craig Jackson was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 11 points, and Paul Wolf was San Diego Christian’s only other scorer in double figures, tallying all 10 of his points in the first half before he picked up 3 of his fouls in just 4 minutes of second-half action.
With the win, its fifth in the past 6 games, Azusa Pacific improves to 6-3 in GSAC, 13-6 overall, good for second place in the conference standings. San Diego Christian, whose 1-7 GSAC mark includes 5 setbacks by 6 points or less, drops to 6-11 overall.
“I was scared to death coming into this game,” Leslie said. “They were 1-6 coming into this game, and only one of those losses was by more than 6 points and they had been in overtime multiple times. Although their record is 1-7, this team is not a 1-7 team – they’ve been in every game.”
The Cougars are off Saturday before rounding out the first half of the GSAC schedule with a visit to Westmont on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m.