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November 19, 2010
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior Caleb Burgess and sophomore James Staniland, Azusa Pacific’s top 3-point shooters, made premature appearances to the 2010-11 season in an effort to save the top-ranked Cougars … and they did.

Burgess scored a game-high 21 points off the bench, and Staniland registered all 5 of his points in a game-changing 20-5 Cougar run to lead Azusa Pacific to an 83-69 victory over Black Hills State University Friday evening in the Felix Event Center.

The pair was not expected to make its season debut for another week, scheduled to miss all 3 games of the Cougars’ opening week of play as they complete their conditioning following recovery from injuries. However, it was clear in Tuesday’s stunning season-opening loss to Claremont-Mudd Colleges that tip-top, in-shape athletes weren’t nearly as necessary as players who can make long shots.

“In our offense we need guys who can stretch the floor and without Caleb and James we have a hard time doing that,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Justin Leslie. “We could not have won tonight without Caleb. He made big shots and got us going.”

Midway through the second half, with Azusa Pacific tailing by 6 points and struggling to make a shot, Burgess came to the rescue, draining consecutive 3-pointers to ignite a blitz in which the Cougars made 5 of their 7 treys on the night in the final 11 minutes of the game. Azusa Pacific went from trailing by 6 at 49-43 to leading by 16 at 78-62 in just 10 minutes of action.

“Black Hills is very good, and we were very sloppy and timid for much of the game,” said Leslie, “but we put together a good 4-minute stretch in which the game got away from them.”

The Yellow Jackets were still up by a point at 56-55 when Azusa Pacific scored 11 straight points to take a 66-56 lead. Staniland scored all 5 of his points on the night during the run, knocking down a 3 in the process that had the Cougars go up 65-56 with 6:25 remaining.

“We started to play how we’re supposed to when the outside shots start falling,” said Leslie, “and with Caleb on the floor our defense was more solid. We were back to playing fundamental basketball.”

Burgess was 8-for-13 from the floor, including a 3-for-5 clip at the arc in the second half. He collected 7 rebounds as well.

Senior center Reggie Owens recorded the seventh double-double of his Cougar career, finishing with 18 points and 10 points.

“It was very physical in the post tonight,” said Leslie, “and they were not going to let us do what we wanted, particularly when it came to Reggie. They threw everything at him, including the kitchen sink.”

Owens, though, was unfazed in his play, converting 8-of-12 shots. Together, Burgess and Owens fashioned an impressive inside-out attack for Azusa Pacific. They were a combined 16-for-25 shooting from the floor, while the rest of the Cougars struggled mightily, going a paltry 15-for-46 (.326).

Azusa Pacific led 30-26 at halftime, capping a first-half of play that featured 5 lead changes and 3 ties.

Junior guard Marshal Johnson, whose jumper put the Cougars up for good at 57-56 with 7:45 left in the game, scored 6 of his 15 points in the first half.

Black Hills State’s inside tandem of Luke Enos and Will John Johnson teamed for 33 points and 21 rebounds. The Yellow Jackets fall for just the second time in 7 games this season. Azusa Pacific picks up its first win in 2 tries.