SEATTLE, Wash. -- Azusa Pacific needed to have a little more fuel in its tank if it hoped to pull off an upset of NCAA Division II’s No. 9-ranked Seattle Pacific Saturday night, but the Cougars simply didn’t have enough in reserve following Friday’s exciting overtime win. The result was a 72-53 defeat to the Falcons, who used a 25-8 run shortly after halftime to turn a two-point edge into a double-digit spread.
“I feel really good about that split. Going into this weekend, I knew it would be an opportunity to learn a lot about the team,” Cougar head coach Justin Leslie said. “I was very pleased with how there’s a very good collective effort as a team. They stayed together and worked hard, and that’s important for us moving forward. The game yesterday was great to be a part of, but it was very emotional and it clearly took something out of us today."
For the second straight game, true freshman Will Ward was a surprising bright spot for the Cougars. Ward was the only Azusa Pacific player to score in double figures, finishing with a team-high 15 points on seven-of-10 shooting from the field.
Azusa Pacific stayed with Seattle Pacific for a half, heading into halftime with a five-point deficit before senior guard B.J. Porter opened the second half with his only three-pointer, which cut the Falcons’ lead to just two points at 33-31. That’s when Seattle Pacific scored eight consecutive points in just over a minute and a half at the front end of an extended 25-8 run over a 10-minute span.
“Seattle Pacific is very good, and I knew when we scheduled them that this would open the eyes of our team to the reality of what we need to do to be successful at this level,” Leslie said. “I think they got the message, so I’m really encouraged for this group going forward.”
Ward scored two in the paint to briefly halt the Falcons’ momentum, cutting the lead to 58-41 with 8:27 remaining, but Seattle Pacific scored the next nine points in a row to extend the lead to a game-high 26 points at 67-41 with 5:41 left in the contest.
Ward scored eight of his 15 points in the first half, and freshman guard Nick Price scored all seven of his points in the opening period. No other Cougar scored more than three points in the first half.
“Something we can build off of is Will Ward establishing himself, going seven-for-10 against maybe the best front line we’ll play against this year,” Leslie said. “I thought he was really good for us out there, and I’m encouraged with all of the young guys. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the freshmen are a good group that’s going to figure things out shortly. Seattle Pacific is a great team because they’re disciplined and well-coached, and the way they responded to our runs was indicative of a veteran team.”
Riley Stockton hit all three of his second-half three-point attempts, and he was one of four players for Seattle Pacific to score in double figures. Stockton finished with 12 points, all in the second half, plus a game-high 10 rebounds, and Andy Poling scored a team-high 15 points for the Falcons, who shot 50 percent or better from the field in each half to finish at 51 percent (24-of-47) for the night.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 1-1 on the year, as the Cougars return home to prepare for their Friday, Nov. 16 home opener against Northwest Nazarene (Idaho) University.