Junior Dominique Johnson scored 7 of his game-high 28 points in the Cougar explosion that turn a narrow18-16 lead into a commanding 34-16 cushion following a Mike Danielian 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the first half.
Johnson scored the first 7 points of the run, highlighted by a trey, and freshman Marshall Johnson followed with back-to-back field goals, including a breakaway dunk. David Burgess then dropped in lay-up before Danielian hit his bomb to complete the blitz.
“We made it a pretty frenetic pace in the first half,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie. “We really forced the tempo and the next thing you now we started getting easy baskets. We were pressing and trapping on defense and with the pace we were going, Hope just got tired.”
Hope International, which was paced by center Tom Granado’s 17 points and 18 rebounds, never got any closer than 14 point the rest of the way. The Cougars led 45-26 at halftime and pushed their lead to as much as 33 at 77-44 following a Dominique Johnson breakaway dunk with over 6 minutes left in the game.
Johnson converted a sizzling 11-of-14 shots, including a 3-for-4 clip beyond the 3-point arc, to register his 28 points in a team-high 25 minutes of play. In fact Johnson was 1 of just 3 Cougars to play over 20 minutes as all 14 Cougars got time on the hardwood with 10 different players tallying points.
Marshall Johnson finished with 15 points while Burgess added 12. Zane Meehl contributed 8 points on the strength of a pair of treys. In just 19 minutes of play, point guard Mike Caffese handed out a game-high 6 assists while collecting 4 (all in the first half) of the Cougars’ hefty 12 steals.
For second straight game, the Cougars were nearly perfect in handling the ball, committing a season-low 5 turnovers which is on the heals of just 6 ball-handling miscues vs. Vanguard University Saturday evening.
“Mike (Caffese) is doing a great of setting the tempo and the guys are being unselfish on offense. They’re make the necessary screens which allows for easier passes and easier shots. All of which translates into better handling of the ball.”
On the other hand, Azusa Pacific’s pressure defense forced Hope International into a whopping 23 turnovers which the Cougars turned into 32 bonus points.
Azusa Pacific has now won 24 straight over Hope International. The Royals fall to The Cougars improve to 19-9 overall, 12-6 in the GSAC, holding on to sole possession of third place in the conference with 2 games remaining. The Cougars host San Diego Christian College.
“We’re playing well right now,” said Leslie, “and as I told the guys, this time of the season is about getting hot, building momentum and believing in each other.”