AZUSA, Calif. – Biola was in the zone – at both ends of the court – and what the Eagles produced was a win for the decades.
Biola, which had lost 26 of the previous 35 meetings with Azusa Pacific including a 12-point setback at home back in early January, employed a tightly wound zone defense and shot a sizzling 70-percent from the field in the second half to roll over Azusa Pacific, 76-54, before a crowd of 2,598 in the Felix Event Center Tuesday night. It was the Eagles’ largest margin of victory over Azusa Pacific since 1989, and the complete-game performance kept a quiet hush over the usually raucous crowd for these games.
The Eagles’ interior frontline of Rocky Hampton and Josh Miller combined for 34 points on 12-for-17 shooting to spearhead a deliberate but quite effective Biola offense, and then combined for 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots to neutralize what little presence Azusa Pacific could muster in the paint.
In fact, the Cougars spent much of the night whipping the ball around the perimeter, trying somehow to get it into All-GSAC center David Buress. When that failed, they tried dribble penetration only to have the have ball knocked away and oftentimes result in 1 of their 17 turnovers.
Biola scored the game’s first 8 points, held the Cougars to just 1 field goal in the first 8 minutes of play and eventually carved out a 16-point first-half lead at 26-10 following Miller’s conventional 3-point play with 5 minutes left in the half.
A mini-run in which the Cougars briefly cut the deficit to a single digit only to have it go back to 11 at halftime at 31-20, gave Azusa Pacific some measure of hope heading into the second half. However, the Cougars were again thwarted by the Eagles’ persistent zone defense which eventually held Burgess without a field goal for his entire 21 minutes of play.
Hampton, who finished with a game-high 16 points and game-highs of 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, stuffed Burgess and any Cougar guard who dared make his way into the paint. Miller finished with a game-high 18 points, and it was his lone trey of the night that gave Biola its first 20-point lead at 53-32 with 9:40 left in the game. The Eagles pushed their lead to as much as 26 at 72-46 following a Hampton lay-up.
Noted for its impressive comebacks throughout the season, Azusa Pacific had nothing left in its tank following Saturday’s dramatic come-from-behind overtime win at California Baptist University. A lethargic set of Cougars were easy prey for Biola. Denied an interior game, Azusa Pacific was left to shoot 3-pointers, and even very few of them were uncontested against Biola’s zone as the Cougars missed 17-of-22 from the arc.
Junior guard Mike Danielian tallied 12 points, the only Cougar in double digits. Dominque Johnson, the Cougars leading scorer at 18.3 a game, was limited to a mere 5 points, all coming in the second half.
The win is Biola’s first in Azusa since 2001 and is the Eagles’ largest margin over the Cougars since registering an 89-56 decision in 1989. It’s also their largest margin of victory in Azusa since posting a 36-point decision in 1985, long before any of tonight’s players were born.
The 54 points are not only a season-low for the Cougars, they are the fewest points ever tallied by an Azusa Pacific team in the Felix Event Center.
With the loss Azusa Pacific falls into a third-place tie in the GSAC with Biola. The Cougars are 16-8 overall, 9-5 in the GSAC, while Biola improves to 18-6 overall, 9-5 in the GSAC.