IRVINE, Calif. -- It didn’t need to be this close. It didn’t need to come down to the final 30 seconds.
This one could have been over by at least the final minute, but Azusa Pacific missed 11-of-18 free throws, including the front end of 2 one-and-ones, and that allowed enough of an escape path for Concordia to beat Azusa Pacific, 83-82, on Taylor King’s put-back with 0.8 second left.
Tonight’s tilt was another in what is becoming a long line of classic games between the GSAC’s top 2 programs. The contest featured 14 lead changes and 11 tied scores. The largest advantage either squad had in the second half was Concordia’s 6-point lead at 78-72 with 4:27 left in the game.
However, Azusa Pacific erased that deficit with a 10-0 run, which included a Marshall Johnson midcourt theft and subsequent rim-rattling dunk. When Johnson made another leaning jumper in the key, Azusa Pacific was in control, up 82-78 lead with 90 seconds remaining to play.
At the other end, however, a wide-open Cameron Gliddon rained down a long trey from the left wing to get the Eagles back to within a point at 82-81 with 1:19 remaining, and when neither team could convert shots on their next possessions, the game came down to Azusa Pacific’s last possession, which was shadowed by a 7-second difference on the shot clock.
The play broke down when Cougar guard Robert Sandoval, who was enjoying the best game of his young college career, rifled a pass along the baseline and through the key that caromed off Reggie Owens’ hands. Johnson picked up the loose ball before it went out of bounds and launched a 3-pointer that bounced off the far rim and into King’s hands with 7 seconds remaining.
Down court Concordia’s Austin Simon put up an 8-foot running jumper against the defense of Cougar guard David Stafford. The shot clanked hard off the backboard and rim simultaneously and into King’s waiting hands that quickly put the ball back up and off the glass for the game-winning shot.
For King, who throughout the night wasn’t bashful about launching any shot inside the half-court line, this certainly was his best shot of the night and the most important basket of his brief Concordia career. He finished with team highs of 18 points and 8 rebounds.
Like they did at the end of the game, the Cougars fashioned a furious run to close the first half, scoring 14 of the half’s final 20 points to take a 41-39 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Owens led Azusa Pacific with game highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds. His conventional 3-point play, in which he muscled a put-back over Concordia’s Ben Smith, gave Azusa Pacific an 80-78 lead with 2:13 left, the Cougars’ first lead in 8 minutes of play.
Johnson added 11 points, 9 of which came in the second half, and Sandoval chipped in with 10 points, 4 assists and 3 steals.
Azusa Pacific out-shot Concordia in the field, including the 3-point line, but the Cougars converted just 39-percent (7-of-18) at the free throw line where Concordia out-scored Azusa Pacific by 12 points.
With the victory Concordia improves to 6-2 overall, 2-0 in the GSAC. Azusa Pacific falls to 5-2 overall, 1-1 in the GSAC heading into Tuesday’s (Dec. 7) showdown with Biola University in the Felix Event Center at 7:30 p.m.