AZUSA, Calif. -- Junior guard B.J. Porter scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, hitting six-of-six shots including a trio of three-pointers to lead the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 72-69 come-from-behind win over Westminster (Utah) Saturday afternoon at the Felix Event Center.
Porter, who hit his first three shots of the game and finished 10-of-13 overall and five-of-seven from three-point range, knocked down a trey with three minutes to play in the first half, helping cut Westminster’s 10-point lead less than a minute earlier into a manageable five-point halftime deficit.
In the second half, Porter and his teammates were just about unstoppable. While Porter went a perfect six-of-six with three triples, the Cougars as a team shot 73 percent (16-for-22) from the field after halftime. Porter’s second three of the second half was his sixth straight make, and it gave Azusa Pacific its first lead since midway through the opening half, pushing the Cougars ahead, 58-56, with 8:33 to play.
Another Porter three-pointer snapped a 61-61 tie with 4:22 to play, although a pair of Jordan Hayter free throws was followed by Tanner Gregory’s go-ahead three-pointer that gave Westminster a 66-64 lead with 3:12 to play. Sophomore point guard Robert Sandoval tied the game at 66-66 on the next Cougar possession, sparking an 8-0 run in the final three minutes before the Griffins trimmed the final margin to three points on Jake Orchard’s trey with three seconds left in the game.
In the first half, the Cougars went scoreless for nearly four minutes, surrendering a 10-0 run that gave Westminster a 24-16 lead with 8:33 to play in the half. After Sandoval hit a pair of free throws with just over five minutes left, cutting the lead to 26-22, the Griffins scored another six in a row to take the game’s only double-digit lead, 32-22, with 3:41 left before halftime.
Westminster’s largest second-half lead was seven points, a margin it held twice before Porter cut into it both times on consecutive trips down the floor. Senior guard Justin Haynes dropped in a layup that cut a five-point Griffin lead to three points at 54-51, making it a one-possession game for the final 10:34 until Cougar free throws in the final 16 seconds pushed the lead to six points at 72-66.
Senior forward Anthony Johnson was Azusa Pacific’s only other double-figure scorer, pouring in all 12 of his points in the second half. Three others scored eight or more, including a nine-point effort from senior guard Brandon Dunson along with eight-point games from Sandoval and senior guard Marshall Johnson.
Hayter scored a team-high 16 points for Westminster, which shot 59 percent (16-for-27) from the floor in the first half to take a 36-31 halftime lead. Orchard and Ben Walker added 10 points each, and Gregory and Alex Drecksel each contributed nine points for the Griffins, who fell to 7-2 on the year.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-1 overall, and the Cougars remain home for a pair of games during Thanksgiving week. On Wednesday, Nov. 23, Azusa Pacific takes on Central Methodist (Mo.), and NAIA Div. II’s No. 8-ranked Embry-Riddle (Fla.) visits the Felix Event Center on Friday, Nov. 25, at 7:30 p.m.