IRVINE, Calif. -- The formula seems simple enough, but limiting turnovers on the road must be easier said than done, because the Cougars committed another 17 in a 78-61 loss to Concordia Saturday night in Irvine.
The defeat sent Azusa Pacific to its fourth loss in the past five road games, but more importantly kept the Cougars a game out of first place on a night when Hope International knocked off GSAC-leading Westmont. As a result, Azusa Pacific no longer controls its own fate in the conference title chase, trailing Concordia and Westmont by a game heading into the final four games of the conference season. Azusa Pacific has committed 17 or more turnovers in six of its nine road games, and the Cougars are 4-5 away from home.
Eleven of the 17 giveaways took place in the first half, including four of the Cougars’ first six possessions of the game, part of a five-minute scoreless stretch to start the game that put Azusa Pacific into an early deficit it never erased. A B.J. Porter three ended the scoreless drought just over five minutes into the game, but it took the Cougars another three minutes to score again.
After pulling to within a point three separate times late in the first half, Azusa Pacific gave up seven of the final eight points of the half to give Concordia a 33-26 halftime lead. Within minutes of an Anthony Johnson trey that trimmed the deficit to 33-29 at the start of the second half, the Eagles padded their cushion with a 10-0 run that lasted just over two minutes and turned a 37-33 lead with 17:04 to play into a commanding double-digit margin (47-33) with 14:59 remaining. Concordia took a 21-point lead, its largest of the game, at 65-44 with 6:19 remaining, and Azusa Pacific was never closer than 14 points over the final 9:33 of the game.
Senior guard Justin Haynes posted team-highs of 13 points and nine rebounds, but his five turnovers also led the team. Junior forward Tyler Monroe finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and three blocks, and Porter came off the bench to score 10.
Concordia shot an abysmal 31 percent (eight-of-26) from the field in the first half, but the Eagles hit 16-of-20 free throws during that time frame and turned 11 Azusa Pacific first-half turnovers into a 13-3 scoring margin in points off turnovers in the opening half. Concordia’s starting five all scored in double figures, led by Tommy Granado’s game-high 19 points and eight rebounds. The Cougars were out-rebounded for the first time in 12 games, conceding a 38-31 rebounding margin to the Eagles.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 20-6 overall, 9-4 GSAC, while Concordia improves to 20-5 overall, 10-4 GSAC, and now controls its fate as it seeks a third consecutive regular-season conference title. Up next for the Cougars is a Valentine’s Day home game against Point Loma Nazarene.