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Early Lead Slashed By 'Swords

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Photo by Ken Williams
Troy Leaf led all scorers with 27 points, including 14 in the first half that led Azusa Pacific to an 11-point halftime lead.

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February 21, 2013
Joe Reinsch
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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i -- Sophomore guard Troy Leaf scored a game-high 27 points, but Chaminade held the rest of Azusa Pacific's lineup to single digits as the Silverswords rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat the Cougars, 81-74, Thursday night in Honolulu.

After scoring the first seven points of the game and leading by as many as 13 points in the opening half, Azusa Pacific took an 46-35 lead into halftime. However, Chaminade completely turned the tables in the second half, erasing the entire deficit within the first six minutes after halftime and pushing its lead to 11 points as part of a 29-7 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

In the opening half, the Cougars shot over 50 percent from the field, hitting 17-of-33 shots including six-of-14 three-pointers, while Chaminade shot 31 percent (9-for-29) from the field and made only three of 16 three-point attempts in the opening half. After halftime was the exact opposite, with Azusa Pacific struggling to a 25 percent shooting half, which included a chilly 2-for-19 clip from three-point range. Meanwhile, Chaminade heated up to make 13-of-27 overall and seven-of-11 three-pointers after halftime.

“We just have to be so much tougher,” Cougar head coach Justin Leslie said. “When Chaminade came out and made a couple shots, we completely lost our composure. We were very aggressive in the first half – rebounding well and fighting for spots, but as soon as they made a couple shots in the second half, we just folded and lost the edge we’d gained for ourselves. It just came down to hustle plays and effort.”

Chaminade featured three scorers in double figures, led by a 20-point effort from Bennie Murray. De’Andre Haskins added a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Silverswords, who were held below 40 percent shooting on the game but converted 27-of-33 at the free throw line led by Haskins’ 10-of-11 from the charity stripe.

Leaf was one rebound away from a double-double, finishing with 27 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Senior guard B.J. Porter was the Cougars’ second-leading scorer with nine points, while sophomore Kevin Stafford finished with eight points, all in the first half. Redshirt freshman forward Sharif Watson grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots. The Cougars committed just 13 turnovers, but Chaminade converted those giveaways into 20 total points off turnovers.

“More than anything, we just didn’t compete hard enough and didn’t generate enough energy out there to will ourselves to get into the right spots,” Leslie said. “To defend on the road and lower the shooting percentage of a good team is hard to do. It takes a lot of focus, toughness, and resolve to do the little things. We say time and time again that when we get stops, we score; we just couldn’t get those stops tonight.”

Porter hit a three-pointer in the game-opening 7-0 burst, and Stafford and Leaf buried triples during a 10-0 run that pushed the lead to 22-10 early in the first half. Another Stafford trey with 12:03 to play in the first half extended the lead 27-14, a 13-point edge which was Azusa Pacific’s largest lead of the game. After Chaminade had trimmed the margin to just four points midway through the half, Leaf hit another trey in the closing seconds to send his team into halftime with a 46-35 lead.

Murray drained a three-pointer on Chaminade’s opening second-half possession, setting the tone for a 29-7 blitz over the first 10 minutes of the second half that turned the Cougars’ 11-point halftime lead into an 11-point advantage for the Silverswords. With Chaminade holding a 73-61 lead with just under four minutes to play, Leaf knocked down three free throws to spark a 10-2 run, which finished with a Porter three-pointer that cut the lead to just four points at 75-71 with 1:29 to play.

Murray knocked down two free throws with 39 seconds left, pushing the lead to six points, 77-71, and Azusa Pacific never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 10-13 overall and 7-8 in PacWest play, while Chaminade extends its winning streak to nine games and has won 13 of its past 14 games to improve to 16-8 overall and 13-3 in the Pacific West Conference.

“Our back’s against the wall, and our season’s on the line,” Leslie said. “It might be good for this team to have their back to the wall, so they can pull together and be tough enough to go out there and do what we need to do. I’m tired of moral victories and coming close to NCAA Tournament-caliber teams. We’re right there with all of them, and it’s time we get over the hump.”

The Cougars wrap up their four-game, eight-day Hawaiian road trip on Saturday at the University of Hawai‘i Hilo, the only game on a different island after three games on the island of O‘ahu.