AZUSA, Calif. -- It didn’t take much, a simple 10-2 run over the course of 4 minutes, but then again this game was anything but simple. Eventually, Azusa Pacific complicated its way to a 77-64 nonconference victory over a pesky and unrelenting Occidental.
Four different Cougars scored in double figures, led by Brett Michel’s game-high 15 points. Caleb Gervin, who spurred the run with a steal and dunk with 14 minutes left in the game, added 12 points while Jeff Staniland chipped in 14, including 3 off a trey that tied the game at 44-44.
That was seemingly enough to allow Azusa Pacific to take control of the final 10 minutes of play, pushing its lead to as much as 18 (77-59) with 2 minutes to play.
“Ball reversal is a key with this team,” said Michel, “and when we do it, everyone gets involved. We’re all good enough to contribute a lot, but we sat around and watched each other tonight. It’s good to be a second-half team, but I’d like to be a first-half team too.”
Azusa Pacific was less than inspiring with its play in the first half, finding that it was more of its own enemy than Occidental, and as a result, the Cougars led by a mere point, 36-35, at intermission. It didn’t help matters either that their top rebounder and best interior defender Danny Rosales was hit with 2 quick fouls less than 5 minutes into the game and spent the rest of the half on the bench. The Cougars had little inside presence, and Occidental took advantage with numerous back-door cuts. Junior guard Derek Renee came off the bench to score all 12 of his points in the first half to lead Occidental.
With the victory, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-1 in the young season. Additionally, the victory was the Cougars’ 33rd straight over an NCAA Division III team, a streak that stretches back to 1991. Occidental suffers its first loss and falls to 2-1.