ROMEOVILLE, Ill. -- A slow-starting first half put Azusa Pacific on the ropes, and Lewis University, a respected NCAA Division II program, used an even stronger opening to the second half to put the Cougars away in the Flyers' 98-77 win.
Lewis, a 2008 NCAA quarterfinalist, counted Thursday evening's contest as an exhibition game, but Azusa Pacific scheduled it as a counting game that drops the Cougars' overall season record to 1-1. Azusa Pacific's 71-64 win over NCAA Div. II No. 17-ranked Alaska-Anchorage was an exhibition game for both teams, so the Cougars will not receive the benefit of that victory on the season register.
The loss, Azusa Pacific's worst since suffering a 103-70 defeat to perennial NAIA power Mountain State (W. Va.) in December 2009, and the 98 points allowed were also the most given up in a regulation game by a Cougar team since that same game.
Matt Toth scored the first eight points of the game, including back-to-back three-pointers on consecutive possessions, and Lewis used the spark to jump out to a 15-2 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Junior forward Tyler Monroe ended the run with a dunk, and he blocked a shot that led to his own layup at the other end that cut the margin to 18-13 midway through the first half.
However, the five-point spread was as close as the Cougars got the rest of the way, as Lewis quickly pushed the lead back into double digits after hitting a trio of three-pointers in a stretch of just over two minutes. Senior guard Marshall Johnson twice cut the lead to nine points at 28-19 and 30-21, but Lewis converted its next three possessions into a 6-0 burst that pushed the lead into double figures for good.
Johnson, who led Azusa Pacific scorers with 15 points, knocked down a three-pointer in the opening minute of the second half, but the glimmer of hope was quickly dashed by another impressive run. This time, Lewis hit three more triples during a 20-4 run that extended the Flyers' lead to 62-36 with 14:23 to play.
Senior guard Brandon Dunson added 14 points while senior point guard Robert Sandoval tossed in 12 points with three rebounds and three assists. Monroe contributed 10 points and led the Cougars in rebounding with six boards along with a game-high three blocks in 22 minutes of action off the bench.
Lewis featured four in double digits, led by Toth's 25-point performance, which included six-of-seven three-point range. Toth's shooting helped the Flyers post an impressive .517 (15-of-29) three-point shooting percentage.
Azusa Pacific takes on its third consecutive NCAA Div. II opponent when it visits Grand Valley State (Mich.) in an exhibition contest on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. local (Eastern) time in Grand Rapids, Mich.