AZUSA, Calif. – Senior forward Ladrick Simon registered game-highs 24 points and 7 rebounds to lead the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 92-82 victory over Cal State Monterey Bay, in the first round of the 16th Annual Cougar Classic.
The Cougars led wire-to-wire and were seemingly in control throughout the night, excluding some late-game excitement when their 18-point lead with 8 minutes to play was whittled to a mere 6 with 90 seconds left. Simon scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half to lead Azusa Pacific out of the gate and then buried 2 free throws with 22 seconds left to ice the game and keep the Otters at bay.
Behind Simon’s 6 straight points to start the game, Azusa Pacific jumped out to a 17-2 lead 5 minutes into play, and though the Cougars never relinquished the lead, Cal State Monterey Bay rallied back into the game. Back-to-back treys by Otter Antoine Griffin highlighted a 13-4 Cal State run that saw the Otters pull to within 2 at 35-33 with just under 6 minutes left in the half. The Cougars, though, answered with their own run, a 16-2 sprint that allowed Azusa Pacific to own a 51-39 cushion at the break. Brett Michel scored 6 of his 9 first-half during the late run.
The Cougars kept their double-digit lead throughout much of the second half, pushing their margin to as large at 81-63 following a Scott Blake triple with 8:05 remaining. The Otters made one last charge, making 7 of 8 shots in a 4-minute span down the stretch to pull to with 6 at 88-82 with 1:34 to play. However, Simon and Michel converted 4 consecutive free throws to thwart the Cal State comeback.
Caleb Gervin finished with 16 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds to aid the Cougar cause. Michel added 13 points and another 7 assists.
Cal State Montrey Bay was led by Griffin’s 20 points and 5 assists.
With the win Azusa Pacific improves 4-1 on the season. Cal State Monterey Bay, which is playing its third game in 4 days, falls to 1-6.