AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA's No. 10-ranked Azusa Pacific ended the game with a 12-0 run, rallying from a four-point deficit to Cal State San Marcos for a 63-55 victory Saturday afternoon at Mira Costa College.
The Cougars -- Azusa Pacific's version -- led by as many as nine points in the first half and expanded a nine-point halftime lead into a 13-point advantage in the opening minute of the second half. However, the Cal State San Marcos Cougars, who are in their first year as an intercollegiate program and beat then-No. 2-ranked Mountain State earlier this season for their program's first signature win, used an 11-2 run to get to within four points. Then, in a brief two-and-a-half minute stretch, Cal State reeled off 10 consecutive points to take a 53-49 lead with five minutes to play.
Tyler Monroe ended the run with a putback, a bucket that was answered by Jamel McGuire's layup at the other end that kept the San Marcos lead at four points at 55-51 with 4:22 left. Azusa Pacific didn't allow a point the rest of the way, finishing the game with an impressive 12-0 run to post the 63-55 victory. Senior guard Marshall Johnson scored eight of his game-high 18 points during the run, which he started with a layup and later drilled a three-pointer with a minute to play that pushed the Cougars' lead to four points.
Azusa Pacific started the game with a four-minute scoreless stretch of its own, although it allowed only five points to the host Cougars before sophomore point guard Robert Sandoval knocked down a three-pointer, his only points of the game, to get the scoring started. A minute later, Johnson hit a trey that gave the Cougars the lead, part of a 14-2 run that put Azusa Pacific in control of the opening half, taking a 32-23 lead into halftime.
No other Azusa Pacific players were in double figures, although four individuals finished with either seven or eight points. Led by Johnson's 18-point performance, the Cougars held a 34-3 edge in bench scoring, and it out-rebounded Cal State San Marcos by a 38-30 margin.
Both teams shot below 50 percent from the free throw line. Azusa Pacific was six-of-18 (33 percent) from the line, while Cal State San Marcos was five-of-12 (42 percent) at the charity stripe. The teams combined to miss all six free throws that were attempted in the first half.
Seniors Anthony Johnson and Justin Haynes shared the team rebounding lead with eight boards each while scoring a combined 15 points, and Monroe added eight points and five rebounds for Azusa Pacific.
Cal State San Marcos was led by a quartet of double-digit scorers, highlighted by 14-point efforts from Alpha Ndiaye and Jacob Ranger. McGuire finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Aaron Chamberlain posted a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 7-2, while Cal State San Marcos drops to 5-6, with all six defeats coming by a margin of 10 points or less. The Cougars are back in action for four games over Christmas break, starting with a 1 p.m. Dec. 21 matchup against Trinity Western (B.C.) at the Felix Event Center.