AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific rallied at the end of each half to force overtime, but the Cougars’ dropped a 100-96 double-overtime decision to Young Harris College, which got a school-record 38 points from guard Malcolm Jackson as the Mountain Lions picked up their first win of the season.
Sophomore guard Troy Leaf scored a season-high 30 points to lead the Cougars, who finished regulation with a 9-2 run over the final 5:08 to erase a seven-point Young Harris edge and force an extra period. Azusa Pacific twice held four-point leads in the first overtime, its largest lead of the game and its only advantage post-halftime, but Jackson kept the Mountain Lions alive with an early three-pointer in the first overtime before knocking down four-of-four at the free throw line in the final minute of the second extra period to seal the win. Of his 38 points, Jackson scored 31 after halftime.
Leaf’s 30-point effort, which comes on the heels of a 29-point effort a week ago in a win over Northwest Nazarene, was accompanied by a 19-point performance from senior guard B.J. Porter as well as a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double for sophomore forward Sharif Watson.
“They’re a confident bunch, and they’ll find ways to go out and score,” Cougar head coach Justin Leslie said. “We just need them to be efficient when they do it. Troy played really well, but his easy looks weren’t there and he had to work very hard for his 30 points. With a young team, we didn’t pick our spots very well offensively tonight – there were a lot more easy baskets to be had that we just didn’t get. We didn’t have a great game offensively, and that really put our defense in some tough spots tonight.”
Watson scored the first four points of overtime that put the Cougars in front, 84-80, before Jackson knocked down a three, which was answered by a trey from Porter to put Azusa Pacific back on top by that four-point margin, 87-83.
“Sharif completely changed the game with his blocked shots, rebounding, and hustle plays, and we’d have lost in regulation if he hadn’t come into the game and impacted us defensively the way he did,” Leslie said. “That was a big step in the right direction for him, and we just need to find out how to get that more consistently from him.”
However, Jackson again answered with a steal and fast-break layup that cut the lead in half, and Young Harris guard Frank Adams hit two free throws with 1:52 left in the first overtime to tie the game and force a second extra period. Adams got the scoring started in the second overtime with a layup, and Young Harris pushed the lead to seven points while Azusa Pacific scored just two points in the first four minutes of the second overtime.
Freshman guard Lydell Cardwell scored a layup and a three-pointer on consecutive possessions with under a minute to play, cutting the deficit to 96-94, but Jackson kept the Mountain Lions ahead by two possessions with his four free throws down the stretch. All five of Cardwell’s points came in overtime, helping the Cougars to a 31-3 edge in bench scoring.
“Playing time is up in the air, and it’s going to be earned by guys who are going to do the little things we need,” Leslie said. “I’m going a little deeper in the bench than I’d like to, because I’m having to figure out who’s going to prepared to play that night. We had a couple bright spots tonight, and we had B.J. and Troy scoring points for us, but other than that there wasn’t a lot of consistency at the other spots.”
Four of the five starters for Young Harris played at least 45 minutes, and after Jackson’s 38-point effort, the Mountain Lions got 22 points from Adams along with an 18-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double from point guard Vince Martin.
“We struggled to get stops at all, and they were scoring way too easy,” Leslie said. “We let them do whatever they wanted in the first half, and even though I felt the quality of shots they took went down in the second half, they just made some huge shots. For them to play as many minutes as they did and stay effective was impressive.”
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in overtime games, while Young Harris picks up its first win after consecutive defeats to open the year, improving to 2-1 overall. The next game for the Cougars is their Pacific West Conference opener next weekend, which is a Saturday, Dec. 1 visit to Point Loma Nazarene University.