AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific Head Coach Justin Leslie has been pleased with the Cougars’ defensive effort the past 2 games, but in light of tonight’s lockdown, they don’t compare.
Azusa Pacific held Cal Baptist scoreless for 7 minutes and limited the Lancers to just 1 field goal for the first 12 minutes of the second half as the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Cougars rolled to an uncharacteristic blowout victory over CBU, 72-58, in a Golden State Athletic Conference game in the Felix Event Center Tuesday night.
Seniors Danny Nugent and Reggie Owens scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, and Owens added a team-high 6 rebounds, to pace the Cougars to their sixth straight victory over the Lancers. However, this contest wasn’t about shots but rather stops.
“We have to be committed to getting stops,” said Leslie. “We have to understand that we are a defensive oriented team, and when we play defense, the offense happens and we fare well on the scoreboard.”
The Cougars put together a 23-2 run (36-7 over 2 halves) to turn a 7-point halftime lead into a 60-33 advantage with 9 minutes left in the game. In the process, the Cougars forced 9 CBU turnovers and held the Lancers to 1-for-8 shooting. At one point early in the half, the Lancers had more turnovers (5) than shot attempts (4).
“I really challenged the guys at halftime to come out and defend to start the second half,” said Leslie. “We defended with a purpose and got after it.”
An Owens jumper in the paint gave the Cougars their first double-digit lead at 41-31 less than 2 minutes into the second half. They pushed the lead to 14 before Cal Baptist’s Brannon Bradley converted a lay-up off a nifty pass from Luke Evans. It was the Lancers’ first field goal of the second half, coming 4 minutes into the frame, and it would be their last for the next 7 minutes and 24 seconds.
The Cougars responded with a 15-0 run in which 6 different players scored, highlighted by Marshall Johnson’s breakaway dunk off a Robert Sandoval steal and lead pass.
A Dallas Rutherford baseline lay-up gave Azusa Pacific its biggest lead of the night, a 29-point cushion at 66-37 with a 6 minutes left in the game. The rest was academic.
Rutherford finished with 9 points, and Sandoval added 7 points to go along with 6 rebounds 4 assists and 2 steals in 20 minutes of play.
“This was a team win,” added Leslie. “We got a lot of players get a lot of playing time, and to hold someone to 58 points says I a lot. I was very pleased with how we defended. If you think about it, Cal Baptist scored 20 points the first 10 minutes of the game. We held them to 38 the rest of the way. I’ll take that any day of the week.”
Cal Baptist was led by Bradley’s 14 points. Evans added 12 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.
With the victory Azusa Pacific improves to 22-3 overall, 13-2 in the GSAC. Cal Baptist falls to 12-12 overall, 6-9 in the GSAC. The Cougars return to the hardwood Saturday (Feb. 12) at Westmont College for a 7:30 p.m. game in Santa Barbara.