AZUSA, Calif. – With 2 starters in street clothes and a key reserve out with a lengthy injury, Azusa Pacific didn’t have the muscle nor the stamina to go toe-to-toe with an undefeated and No. 5-ranked Biola, and thus the pending result was hardly unexpected.
Biola rolled past Azusa Pacific, using its distinct size advantage and torrid shooting to collect an 85-69 Golden State Athletic Conference victory Tuesday evening in a Felix Event Center that was just as depleted of fans as the Cougar line-up was of available players.
Senior guard Marlon King scored a game-high 25 points and All-GSAC center Rocky Hampton added 16 points and 12 rebounds to pace Biola, which led by 12 at halftime (39-27), pushed its lead to as much as 32 (63-31) in the second half before Azusa Pacific took advantage of poor Eagle free-throw shooting to pull to within 10 (73-63) with over 3 minutes left in the game. However, the Cougars ran out of time, and more importantly out of gas. A mid-court pick by Nate Rakestraw and his subsequent breakaway lay-up finished off Azusa Pacific, which missed its next 3 shots and committed 2 turnovers as the final minutes ticked away.
With center Reggie Owens and forward Christian Katuala out of the Azusa Pacific frontline, the Cougars came into the game hamstrung, which by the way also had point guard Mike Caffese out of the starting line-up.
A gallant effort put the Cougars up 10-5 early on and the game was tied at 14-14 just 7 minutes into play. However, the Eagles drained 3 consecutive 3-point shots by King, Danny Campbell and Rakestraw to ignite 20-6 run that eventually gave Biola a 34-20 lead with 6-and-a-half minutes left in the first half. They made 8-of-11 shots at one point and collected the offensive rebound on 2 of those misses which they converted into buckets.
A Caleb Burgess trey to start the second half gave the Cougars some hope of an ensuing second-half battle, but the Eagles would have none of it, countering with a 24-1 run in which their zone defense held Azusa Pacific without a field goal for over 6 minutes. A King lay-up capped off the run that gave Biola a 63-31 lead with more than 13 minutes left in the game.
With nothing more than desperation left in its arsenal, a full-court pressing Azusa Pacific began to foul Eagles, and in particular the 44-percent shooting King, who obliged the Cougars by missing 5 free throws, including the front-end of 2 one-and-ones, in a 2-minute span. Azusa Pacific chipped away at a 23-point deficit with a 19-6 sprint that pulled the Cougars to within 10 at 73-63 with 3:32 left in the game. King, who was in the crosshairs of every Cougar defender, finally made 2 successive free throws on the ensuing possession and Rakestraw followed with his steal that sapped the Cougars.
Rakestraw finished with 13 points and 6 steals in 38 of minutes of play. Campbell had 12 points and teamed with Hampton to lead an Eagle frontline that dominated play around the basket. With no Owens to clog the middle, Biola out-scored Azusa Pacific a whopping 32-8 in the paint.
Burgess led Azusa Pacific with a career-high 21 points. Dominique Johnson added 15 points and 5 assists. As evidence of the Cougars slight size, guard David Stafford led Azusa Pacific with 8 rebounds.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 8-6 overall, 1-3 in the GSAC. Biola improves to 14-0 overall, 4-0 in the GSAC.