AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific couldn’t find a way to overcome the tenacious rebounding effort from No. 7-ranked Cal Poly Pomona, and the Broncos built a huge early lead before coasting to a 76-56 win over the Cougars Saturday night to wrap up the four-game Cougar Classic.
Cal Poly Pomona posted a 40-23 rebounding margin, which included a 26-9 disparity on the boards in the first half, and the Broncos converted their 15 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points. Ray Ray Chase’s game-high nine rebounds included seven offensive boards, and Cal Poly Pomona used the extra opportunities to build a 20-point halftime lead.
“We played with no sense of toughness or urgency to start the game on the defensive side of the ball,” Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie said. “Cal Poly got whatever they wanted – when they missed a shot, they got it (the rebound). At halftime, they only had three possessions where they missed and didn’t get the rebound – you can’t win that way.”
After opening the game with a 9-0 run, Cal Poly Pomona went on a 13-2 run late in the opening half to notch its first lead of at least 20 points, and the Broncos maintained a lead of at least 15 points the rest of the game after taking a 38-18 lead into halftime.
“I know it’s early in the season, but having already lost two games this week, they’re a strong program that had their backs against the wall,” Leslie said. “They competed in everything they did on the court, and even if it wasn’t always pretty for them, they guarded, competed for every loose ball, and won on each of those contests for the ball. That exposed our lack of toughness and poise.”
Junior guards Robert Sandoval and Troy Leaf each hit a three-pointer during an 8-2 run that lasted less than 90 seconds and pulled the Cougars within 15 points, 56-41, with 7:19 left in the game. That was the closest Azusa Pacific would get the rest of the way, as the Cougars’ shooting went cold after Leaf hit another three-pointer that trimmed the Broncos lead to 60-44 with 6:07 to play. From that point on, Azusa Pacific scored its next six points from the free throw line, and the Cougars trailed by at least 18 points the rest of the game.
Leaf scored a game-high 22 points on six-of-16 shooting, and Sandoval hit five-of-14 shots to finish with 14 points. Cal Poly Pomona’s DeRonn Scott scored 12 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, and Jordan Faison added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Broncos. Chase contributed eight points with a game-high nine rebounds for Cal Poly Pomona.
Senior forward Tyler Monroe was the only Azusa Pacific player to shoot better than 50 percent for the game, hitting five-of-eight from the field for 10 points and eight rebound, and no Cougar outside the top-three scorers ended up finishing with more than four points.
“We needed our backcourt on offense to be strong, and they weren’t tonight,” Leslie said. “They didn’t make good decisions, they both turned the ball over far too many times, and their shot selection wasn’t good. Our bench was not prepared, either; the advantage I thought we had coming into this game was in the fact that we could defend, and we didn’t defend at all.”
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 1-1 overall while Cal Poly Pomona bounces back from back-to-back upset defeats to improve to 2-2 overall. The Cougars return to action on Saturday, Nov. 23, when they host their traditional rival, Biola.