SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Indeed, there is something quite “golden” about Point Loma Nazarene’s Golden Gymnasium. At least Azusa Pacific believes so.
For the second time in as many visits the Cougars torched the nets of Golden Gym and rolled to a much-needed 96-78 Golden State Athletic Conference victory at Point Loma Nazarene Saturday night. Four different Cougars scored in double-figures, and on the evening 8 players shot 50-percent or better from the floor.
Azusa Pacific shot a season-high 58-percent, canning 28-of-48 shots, including a season-best 9-of-17 clip from the 3-point arc. The Cougars controlled play from the opening tip, never trailing while methodically building a double-digit lead within the first 9 minutes play. In fact, once Cougar freshman James Staniland drained the first of his 3 treys on the night to put Azusa Pacific up 24-12, the Sea Lions could never again whittle the deficit to single-digits, and certainly not while the Cougars were shooting so well.
“I don’t know why, but we certainly have shot well down here in recent years,” said third-year Cougar coach Justin Leslie. “I can’t put my finger on why we do, but I’ll certainly take it.”
Sophomore guard Marshall Johnson was the hottest of all Cougars, making 6-of-7 shots to lead the way with 18 points. All-American Dominique Johnson added 17 points, while junior center Reggie Owens came off the bench to drop in 15 points and snag a game-high 7 rebounds.
“This was one of those games where toughness matters, and Marshall made some strong aggressive moves to the rim,” said Leslie. “He was able to get through pushing and get to the rim and convert.”
A year ago in Golden Gym, Azusa Pacific put on a blistering exhibition of shooting in the second half of a 90-83 win over Point Loma. The Cougars made 22-of-26 (.846) in the final 20 minutes of the game to rally from a 6-point halftime deficit. And while tonight’s shooting clip falls far short of last year’s amazing touch, it nonetheless marks the fourth consecutive contest in Golden Gym in which Azusa Pacific has shot well over 50-percent for the game.
The Cougars’ deft shooting touch from the floor was on display at the charity stripe tonight as well where the Cougars converted 31-of-34 (.912) free throws, just 1 free throw make shy of breaking the school single-game record.
Azusa Pacific used a 17-5 run midway through the first half to open up a 34-17 lead following a Caleb Burgess put-back. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Mike Danielian and Staniland to close the first half gave the Cougars a commanding 19-point advantage at halftime at 48-29.
Behind the play of both Johnsons, Azusa Pacific pushed its lead into the 20s for the first 5 minutes of the second half. The Sea Lions pulled to within 12 midway through the second half, but a rare Ashton Roberts’ 3-pointer pushed aside any thought of a PLNU comeback as Azusa Pacific managed a 15-20 point lead over the final 10 minutes of the game, allowing both coaches to empty their benches.
“This game was determined in the first half when we played with a lot of focus and intensity,” added Leslie. “It wasn’t anything special, just a hunger to do well and a lot of different guys playing well. This was probably Ashton Roberts’ best game in his 3 seasons at Azusa Pacific.”
Burgess finished with 12 points and Staniland had 11. Point Loma was paced by Jake Johnston’s game-high 22 points.
Azusa Pacific has now won 38 of the past 43 meetings with Point Loma, including 15-of-17 in Golden Gym, and improves to 9-6 overall on the season, 2-3 in the GSAC. Point Loma Nazarene falls to 5-9 overall, 2-4 in the GSAC.