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Cougars Wear Down Road-Weary Vulcans

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Photo by Ken Williams
Robert Sandoval scored 16 points and dished out six assists without a turnover to help lead Azusa Pacific to a 92-79 win over Hawai‘i Hilo Monday night.

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February 17, 2014
Joe Reinsch
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific used a deeper bench along with an efficient performance in the backcourt to keep Hawai‘i Hilo winless in Pacific West Conference play with a 92-79 victory Monday night at the Felix Event Center.

Junior guards Robert Sandoval and Troy Leaf combined for 29 points and 13 assists against just one turnover, and senior forward Tyler Monroe turned in a team-high 17 points on eight-of-11 shooting from the field to help lead the way for the Cougars, who completed a three-game home sweep of the PacWest’s Hawai‘i schools within the past five days.

“We had a poor start to the game, and we gave up several offensive rebounds early in the game that allowed them to score some second-chance points,” Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie said. “It took us awhile to stop overthinking and just attack, but I thought Robert and Troy both did a good job of doing that. This was another high-assist, low-turnover game for them where they attacked and made good decisions to get us to play a little better.”

Hawai‘i Hilo entered the game winless in 15 PacWest games, losing 16 in a row overall and playing its third road game in five days, but the Vulcans led for most of the first five minutes of the game. They were still within two points at 24-22 with eight minutes left in the half until Monroe and junior guard Kevin Stafford scored the first 13 points of a 22-6 run that gave Azusa Pacific a 46-28 lead late in the half. The Vulcans were able to trim the halftime margin to 13 points, 46-33, but they never got closer than 13 the entire second half.

With the win, the Cougars improve to 14-9 overall and 10-7 in PacWest play, including an 8-1 mark in conference home games heading into Saturday’s matchup with Point Loma. Hawai‘i Hilo is now 3-19 overall and 0-16 PacWest.

Leaf gave the Cougars a pair of 20-point leads in the second half, hitting three-pointers with 14:45 remaining and 12:47 left. Darnell Williams led the Vulcans with 31 points, scoring 22 of them in the second half to help his team keep pace with the uptempo Cougars after halftime.

“We wanted to force the tempo aggressively in this game, to make this a game where our depth could create more possessions in the game,” Leslie said. “They did a good job disrupting us, and in the second half Darnell Williams played a great game. There were opportunities to let us take the lead from 15 to 20, but he would keep making shots that wouldn’t let his team get too far away.”

Monroe and sophomore guard LyDell Cardwell highlighted Azusa Pacific’s 46 points of production off the bench, with Monroe tallying 17 points, five rebounds, and a pair of blocks while Cardwell knocked down a pair of three-pointers in a 10-point effort against Hawai‘i Hilo’s seven-player rotation.

Sandoval finished with 16 points and six assists without a turnover, and Leaf drilled three treys in a 13-point, seven-assist outing. Over the last three games, the duo is averaging a combined 29 points and 12 assists while committing only three turnovers per game during the stretch.

The Cougars shot 62 percent (16-for-26) from the field after halftime and finished at 56 percent (31-for-55), its third straight game shooting 50 percent or better from the floor. Although Hawai‘i Hilo was also over 50 percent in the second half, it had to overcome a cold first-half (35 percent) shooting performance while converting just three-of-23 three-pointers on the night.

Azusa Pacific returns to action Saturday, Feb. 22, hosting Point Loma at 1 p.m. in the final regular-season home game of the season.