AZUSA, Calif. – Justin Johnson provided the silk and his teammates offered the hammer as the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Concordia University pulled away for an 86-68 victory over Azusa Pacific in a Golden State Athletic Conference game Saturday night in the Felix Event Center.
Johnson found his previously-AWOL sweet stroke in the second half, scoring 22 of his team-high 25 points after halftime, highlighted by his personal 9-0 run which gave Concordia a comfortable 50-40 lead 5 minutes into the second half. From there Johnson’s teammates, led by center Ben Smith, put a lockdown on the Azusa Pacific attack, forcing the Cougars to miss 19 of their final 27 shots which allowed the Eagles to remain undefeated on the season at 13-0 and atop the GSAC standings with 3 conference wins.
Azusa Pacific used a 7-2 run at the start of the second half to knot the game at 37-37 following a Caleb Burgess baseline jumper. A Reggie Owens’ lay-up kept the Cougars within 1 at 41-40 before Johnson, who missed 5-of-6 shots in the first half, found his missing shot and took over the rest of the game.
The former juco all-state player out of nearby Citrus College knocked down 4 consecutive shots, including a trey, to ignite a 13-2 Eagle run that gave Concordia a 54-42 advantage. He made 9-of-11 shots in the second half, knocking down an assortment of attempts, those from beyond the arc, pull-up jumpers in the key, and reverse lay-ups along the baseline.
Concordia managed the double-digit lead for the next 5 minutes until Azusa Pacific rallied behind the shooting of All-American Dominique Johnson. Johnson, who scored a career-high 33 points including 22 in the second half as well, rallied Azusa Pacific back to within 7 at 65-58. However, the Cougars seemingly lost all the wind in their sails when Owens was ejected from the game for a foul on Concordia’s Terrence Worthy as he sprinted toward a fast-break lay-up.
With Dominique Johnson chasing on the right, the 175-pound Worthy opted to switch to the left side of the basket as he went up for a lay-up where he ran into the sprinting 270-pound Owens. The subsequent collision sent Worthy flying into the basket standard and Owens off to the showers. Smith and teammate Austin Simon were also ejected from coming onto the floor from the bench.
The Eagles responded with a 13-2 run, and the Cougars, in the midst of going 6 minutes without making a field goal, could not find an offensive answer answer.
Worthy and fellow guard A.J. Gasporra finished with 12 points, and Smith had 6 points and 3 blocked shots before his night was cut short.