AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific pounded the ball into the paint and accordingly got pounded, but the Cougars had enough muscle – most of it on senior center Reggie Owens -- to wear off the onslaught and beat California Baptist University, 74-66, in a Golden State Athletic Conference game in Van Dyne Gym, Tuesday evening.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Owens registered game highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of action despite wearing a soak-drenched uniform and oftentimes 3 Lancers, one on each arm and another on the back. Of his 6 double-doubles this year, this one was certainly the most arduous in attaining.
“It was a bloodbath out there, but it was at both ends so the refs were consistent and did a good job,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Justin Leslie. “We just had to adjust and get tougher. We weren’t very tough in the first half.”
Azusa Pacific trailed 32-31 at halftime, letting an 8 point lead slip away in the final 5 minutes, while allowing the Lancers to do whatever they wanted on the glass. The under-sized Lancers out-rebounded Azusa Pacific by 6 in the half and thus tallied 15 second-chance points, 7 of which came in a 17-8 half-ending run.
“Cal Baptist always does a good job of taking away something you’re good at, and we knew it would be Reggie,” said Leslie. “I had to let the game develop and see where the places were going to be that would allow us to get the ball to Reggie. At halftime we made some adjustments to get those looks to Reggie.”
Owens scored the Cougars’ first 6 points of the second half and initiated an 11-0 Cougar burst that got Azusa Pacific a 7-point cushion at 46-39. While it was Owens’ lay-ups that got the Cougars going, it was senior forward Caleb Burgess’ jump shots that sparked Azusa Pacific.
Burgess scored all 14 of his points in the second half. After Cal Baptist closed to within 3 at 54-51 with just under 10 minutes to play, Burgess, who canned a 3-pointer in the earlier 11-0 sprint, carried the Cougars through a 13-5 run with another 10 points of his own, the final 2 giving the Cougars a comfortable 67-56 lead with 7 minutes to play.
“I wanted to be patient and let the game come to me,” said Burgess. “I was trying to let our guys do what they do and work off of them, and I think Cal Baptist may have forgotten about me.”
“With us, you have to pick your poison,” said Leslie. “They focused on Reggie and did good job of limiting Marshall’s looks, but you can’t guard everyone like that so Caleb was the man who they left open and it was nice for him to knock down some shots.”
The Lancers got back to within 7 but the Cougars turned to Owens again, who parlayed a nifty Burgess pass into another contest lay-up and a conventional 3-point play to put the game on ice for the final 5 minutes.
“Reggie had 20 and 10 with the kitchen sink thrown at him,” said Leslie. “I think that’s pretty good. However, we also was the best post passing we’ve had all season, particularly in the second half. We did a fantastic job and throwing the ball where the defense wasn’t and allowing Reggie to get the ball before 3 guys were in his lap.”
Junior Marshall Johnson chipped in 12 points to go along with 6 rebounds, including 5 in the second half when Azusa Pacific came back to out-rebounded the Lancers by 2 for the game.
Senior guard Mike Caffese had 5 points to go along with his game-high 4 assists and 4 steals, all part of the 12 thefts the Cougars collected while inducing Cal Baptist into 16 turnovers.
Azusa Pacific out-scored Cal Baptist, 38-26, in the paint.
Justus Von Wright and Luke Evans each scored 16 points to lead Cal Baptist, which falls to 7-7 overall, 1-4 in the GSAC.
The victory is Azusa Pacific’s fifth straight over Cal Baptist and it fourth straight at Van Dyne Gym. In addition, the Cougars push their winning streak to a season-best 8 straight and improve to 13-2 on the season, 4-1 in the GSAC.
Azusa Pacific returns to the hardwood Saturday (Jan. 8) when it host Westmont College at 7:30 p.m. in the Felix Event Center.