OAKLAND, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific capped the regular season with a performance to remember, claiming a share of fourth place in the Pacific West Conference with a 104-69 road win over Holy Names Saturday afternoon in Oakland.
It was the highest-scoring Cougar performance all season, its highest-scoring non-overtime win since 2011, and the 35-point margin of victory was Azusa Pacific’s largest in a conference game since a 37-point (103-66) win over Point Loma in 2007. The current six-game winning streak is Azusa Pacific’s longest since winning seven straight two years ago, and it matches the longest conference streak since the Cougars won six in a row in Feb. 2011.
Head coach Justin Leslie was hard-pressed to recall a game which his team so thoroughly dominated, which helped Azusa Pacific close out the regular season with a 17-9 overall record and a 13-7 conference record in its second season of PacWest competition.
“It’s been years since we’ve had a game like this,” Leslie said. “This was a really good performance in every aspect: offensively, defensively, and in the way we protected the ball. We haven’t had a game go quite this smoothly in a long time. Over these last six games, we’ve had a lot of fun, and the guys have done a good job recognizing our team identity and sticking to it.”
All 10 players in uniform scored at least six points, with eight of them reaching double figures, and six different Cougars hit three-pointers. In fact, all six of them hit two or more as Azusa Pacific hit 13-of-26 from long range to finish 50 percent or better from the arc for just the third time this season. In addition, the Cougars committed a season-low six turnovers, the lowest single-game total for Azusa Pacific since a five-turnover game against Hope International on Feb. 24, 2009, and out-rebounded Holy Names by a 45-28 margin for its best single-game rebounding margin of the season.
Junior guard Troy Leaf scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the opening half, and in the second half seven others joined him in double figures including all five players who came off the bench for the Cougars. Sophomores Jared Zoller and LyDell Cardwell each scored 12 points, while the other three off the bench (Andy Jones, Miller Brown, and Corey Langerveld) contributed 10 points apiece.
“It sounds funny to say in a game you score 100 points, but we were selective with our shots and stuck to the ones that were good for us,” Leslie said. “I think what’s been consistent for us the last six games is seeing guys develop into understanding their spots and finding their opportunities. Now we are seeing them take advantage of those opportunities.”
After closing out the first half with six straight points, including a halfcourt buzzer-beater from Brown that gave Azusa Pacific a 15-point halftime lead at 42-27, the Cougars scored the first 10 points of the second half to complete a 16-0 run in less than three minutes of actual game time. Junior guard Robert Sandoval’s three-pointer just over two minutes into the second half finished the run by extending the margin to 52-27, and the lead hit 30 points with a Jones putback that made it 76-46 with 11:24 left in the game.
“After we made that run at the end of the first half with Miller sending us into the locker room on a high note, the start of the second half just opened things up for us,” Leslie said. ““We’re a deep team, and it’s nice to see some of the other guys get some extended minutes and have a chance to play well.”
Sandoval finished with 10 points along with game-highs of five assists and four steals, and senior forward Bertram Hall was the team leader in rebounds with nine to go with his 11-point effort. Langerveld hauled in eight rebounds, and Jones added seven to help the Cougars to their 45-28 rebounding edge. Azusa Pacific’s six turnovers resulted in just three points for Holy Names, while the Cougars cashed in 11 Hawks giveaways for 21 points off turnovers.
Holy Names, which finishes the season 5-23 overall and 4-16 in the PacWest, was led by a 26-point, five-assist performance from Kurtis Ong, who hit 10-of-12 from the field and was a perfect four-for-four from the free-throw line. Of Ong’s two misses, both came from beyond the three-point line, but the rest of the Hawks combined to hit just 27 percent (13-for-48) from the field.
Azusa Pacific, which is not eligible to participate in the PacWest Tournament until 2015 when the Cougars become postseason-eligible in NCAA Division II, will continue the season by hosting the National Christian College Athletic Association West Regional championship on Tuesday, March 5. The opponent for Tuesday’s game will be the winner of Monday’s regional playoff game between Point Loma and Bethesda.