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Can't Master the Free Throw

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February 22, 2011
Gary Pine
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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s miracle comeback tonight was all for naught, because the Cougars, who made 7-of-11 shots from the 3-point line in the second half, couldn’t knock down necessary free throws that were nearly 5 feet closer than the bombs they rained down. The Master’s College, however, could make the freebies.

Anthony Cammon’s 3 free throws with 4 seconds left erased any memory of Azusa Pacific’s amazing 31-second, 10-point blitz and lifted The Master’s to a stunning 78-77 Golden State Athletic Conference upset of the No. 6-ranked Cougars.

The Mustangs appeared to have the upset victory already in hand when an Anthony Wells free throw put the Mustangs up 75-67 with 62 seconds left in the game. However, Danny Nugent sandwiched a Mustang turnover with a pair of 3-pointers within 12 seconds. Wells then missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 free throw and with 21 seconds left, Caleb Burgess buried yet another 3-pointer and was fouled on the play. He drained the free throw to give Azusa Pacific a surprising 77-75 lead.

Out of a timeout, though, The Master’s ran a play for Cammon, who had already knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the game, and this time, as he went for the game-winner, he was fouled by Burgess from beyond the arc.

Perhaps it didn’t help the Cougars either that officials Tom Nally and Chris Cooper were working without their partner Mike Scyphers who went down with an injury and missed the final 7 minutes of the game.

Nonetheless, Cammon went to the line and calmly sank all 3 free throws, his only attempts of the night, to avert the loss, avoid overtime and give the Mustangs their third straight victory over Azusa Pacific in Santa Clarita and their fourth in the past 5 visits from the Cougars.

“We were flat tonight and didn’t have a sense of urgency,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Justin Leslie. “It’s the same problem we’ve had the past few games. We gave them some confidence and that’s all that it took.”

For the third straight game, the Cougars were in a funk against a team near the bottom of the GSAC standings. Overtime wins last week over Vanguard University and Hope International University didn’t seem to alert the Cougars to their poor play, for it continued again tonight. Though they shot much better from the floor than in the previous 2 games, they couldn’t take care of the ball in the first half, committing 9 turnovers. Then they were abysmal at the free throw line in the second half, missing 9-of-17 free throws.

“We’ve been the top free throw shooting team in the league so to shoot like that tonight is disappointing and puzzling,” said Leslie.

In Azusa Pacific’s 4 losses this year, all by a combined 8 points, the Cougars are shooting a dismal 61-percent the line. In the other 25 games, all victories of course, they’re knocking down free throws at a sizzling 73-percent.

The Master’s used a 10-0 run in the first half to jump out to a 22-12 lead following a Wells’ jumper. The Mustangs maintained the lead the rest of the way and took a 39-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.

As they would do again at the end of the game, the Cougars put on an offensive blitz to start the second half, scoring 13 straight points in a 3-minute stretch to take a 45-41 lead following a Mike Caffese 3-pointer.

The Cougars, though, have been lackluster in their effort over the past week and once again they looked tired and lethargic after regaining the lead. As a result, The Master’s answered and Leif Karlberg’s personal 7-0 run put the Mustangs back up by 5 at 64-59 with just under 7 minutes to play.

Azusa Pacific missed 4 free throws down the stretch that allowed The Master’s to eventually push its cushion to what seemed to be an insurmountable 8-point advantage with less than a minute left in the game. However, Nugent and Burgess, the Cougars’ top 3-pointer shooters, found themselves open again and again and gave Azusa Pacific a 2-point lead and what seemed to be another near-miss victory.

Cammon, though, made sure it wasn’t.

“It was an amazing comeback,” said Leslie. “We had the game won, but Caleb clearly fouled Cammon. I tried to ice him with a timeout but he made all 3. It was pretty clutch by him.”

Reggie Owens led Azusa Pacific with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Burgess added 16 points.

The Master’s, which improves to 12-17 overall, 5-14 in the GSAC, was paced by Karlberg’s game-high 23 points. Cammon finished with 14.

The loss snaps Azusa Pacific’s 6-game winning streak and drops the Cougars to 25-4 overall, 16-3 in the GSAC.