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Azusa Pacific's first season in the Pacific West Conference includes four games in Hawai'i during the 18-game PacWest schedule.

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July 30, 2012
Joe Reinsch

AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s 2012-13 men’s basketball schedule has been announced, and the Cougars’ inaugural season in the Pacific West Conference includes four February road games in Hawai‘i.

The 18-game conference schedule features home and away games against five programs: California Baptist, Dixie State, Fresno Pacific, Grand Canyon, and Point Loma. The remaining eight games consist of four games at home against the four schools that comprise the PacWest’s northern California membership, as well as four conference road games in Hawai‘i Feb. 16-23.

“The thing I’m most looking forward to is also our biggest concern,” head coach Justin Leslie said. “There’s the challenge of facing new teams and new styles of play and going to different places, but ultimately it’s going to be an opportunity for us to grow and learn. It’s all new to us in this league, and we won’t be as comfortable as we have been in the past, especially with a young team.”

Azusa Pacific, which enters Year Two of a three-year NCAA Division II membership process this year, is one of four new members who bring the PacWest membership in 2012 to 14 schools. However, six of the Cougars’ PacWest games are contested against past conference rivals (California Baptist, Fresno Pacific, and Point Loma).

Azusa Pacific’s first Pacific West Conference game is a Dec. 1 visit to Point Loma, and the Cougars’ challenging January conference slate features three straight home games followed by three in a row on the road. Each of the three road games takes place in a different state, starting with a Jan. 15 visit to California Baptist, followed by a Jan. 21 trip to face Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., before the trip wraps up on Jan. 26 at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah.

“January is going to be brutal for us, having to play all those tough teams in a row and finishing with those three on the road.” Leslie said.

In addition to the 18-game PacWest schedule, Azusa Pacific opens the season at the Seattle Pacific University Classic, where the Cougars will take on a pair of the top teams in NCAA Division II’s western region. First up is Central Washington University, which has posted seven consecutive winning seasons including a 26-4 campaign in 2010-11. The very next day, Azusa Pacific faces a Seattle Pacific team which owns the longest current NCAA Div. II playoff streak with eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Last year, the Falcons were 23-8 and advanced to the West Regional championship game.

“Opening up in Seattle is going to be a big undertaking,” Leslie said. “Seattle Pacific returns virtually their entire team that made last year’s regional finals, and they will be an unbelievable test for us. We want to play the best and know what it looks like to play at that level.”

The nonconference schedule also includes a pair of games in a Cal State San Bernardino-hosted tournament which will be played at the 9,500-seat Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. The Cougars take on NCAA Div. II in-state foes Cal State Stanislaus and Cal State Dominguez Hills in the two-day classic.

“Getting to play at Citizens Business Bank Arena as part of a really great event will definitely be a highlight for us,” Leslie said.

Azusa Pacific’s Felix Event Center will also serve as the host site of the 2013 Pacific West Conference basketball tournament March 7-9, although the Cougars and other new conference members are not able to participate in the conference tournament until they have been granted full NCAA membership.

Click here for Azusa Pacific's 2012-13 men's basketball schedule.