GOLDEN, Colo. – Azusa Pacific was right where it wanted to be; owner of a double-digit lead and hammering the host with a barrage of shots while playing tight-fisted defense.
And then the motor stopped running.
Whether it was a matter of games on back-to-back nights or just the high attitude, whatever the reason Azusa Pacific stopped dead in its tracks, yielding an 18-2 run over a 5-minute stretch that allowed Colorado Mines to steal a 91-86 victory to close out the Mines Tipoff Classic in Golden, Colo., Saturday night.
Unlike the night before, Azusa Pacific was playing inspired basketball that included some nifty shot-making skills. Using a balanced attack, the Cougars turned a 37-all halftime tie into a bulging 12-point lead less than 6 minutes into the frame and maintained that double-digit advantage until the midway point of the half.
With 10 minutes left in the game and the Cougars seemingly in control at 65-55, the engine died, and the offense came to a halt. The Cougars missed 13 straight shots and committed 3 turnovers in the process which allowed the Orediggers to turn the game around, digging out of a 63-52 deficit with a 28-6 run that gave them an 80-69 lead with just over 3 minutes left in the game.
In an 8-minutes span of play, all Azusa Pacific could muster was 6 free throws until Mike Caffese drained a 3-ball with 3 minutes left to indicate some sort of energy still remained in the Cougar offense. Colorado Mines, though, was not to be caught, converting free throws and keeping the lead near 10 until the final seconds.
Despite a balanced performance in which 6 different Cougars reached double-digits in scoring on the strength of Azusa Pacific making 25 of its first 46 (.543) shots, the Cougars could not avert the defeat after closing the game by making just 6 of their final 25 shots (.240).
Sophomore guard Marshall Johnson led the Cougars with 16 points. Senior All-American Dominique Johnson added 14 points, while junior forward Caleb Burgess chipped in with 13. Junior Mason Maynard came off the bench to add 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting.
Colorado Mines, which improves to 2-0 on the young season, was led by Dale Minschwaner’s game-high 19 points off the bench, 16 of which came in the first half. Azusa Pacific returns home with a 3-2 record and will host Montana Tech, Wednesday (Nov. 25) at 7:30 p.m. in the Felix Event Center.