AZUSA, Calif. -– Brett Michel, Jeff Staniland, and Caleb Gervin nailed consecutive 3-point baskets in a 3-minute span to blow open a tight game and lead the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 83-58 victory over Knoxville College in the final game of the NAIA Shootout.
With the Cougars clinging to a 38-35 lead early in the second half, Michel started the Cougar blitz with a corner trey, his first of the 3 that he would knock down in a 5-minute stretch. Staniland then buried one from the wing before Gervin rained another just seconds later, giving the Cougars’ its largest lead at that point of the game at 47-35.
Knoxville was never able to get any closer than 8 points the rest of the way as the Cougars’ begin making shots from over their entire offensive end. In all, Azusa Pacific converted 7 second-half triples on its way to a season-high 10 to win its tenth straight at home and improve to 8-2 on the season.
Gervin led with a balanced effort, tallying 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting including a perfect 3-for-3 at the 3-point arc, to go along with a season-high 9 assists and a career-high 8 steals. Staniland added 17 points, including 7 in the opening minutes of the game to get the Cougars out to a 10-1 lead.
Knoxville, though, turned up the defensive pressure and got itself back into the game behind the play of center Jamel Gooding, who scored 15 first-half points. The 6-foot-7 Gooding canned 5-of-9 shots over the final 12 minutes of the half to help the Bulldogs rally to a 33-32 lead with 56 seconds remaining following Gooding’s third 3-pointer of the half. However, it was Knoxville’s only lead of the game. A pair of Lance Soderberg free throws gave Azusa Pacific a 34-33 halftime advantage.
In the second-half the freshman Soderberg locked down Gooding, teaming with Michel to hold Gooding to just 2 points off a mere 5 shots over the final 20 minutes of the game.
“Lance turned the game around for us,” said Azusa Pacific Coach Bill Odell. “He’s just a smart defender. He was aggressive on offense, but his defense is what changed the game for us. I also looked for opportunities to get Michel on Gooding because I knew Brett would do a good defensive job on him and he did.”
Soderberg finished with 12 points and 2 steals in just 17 minutes of what may have been his best game of the season. Michel finished with 9 points, all during the 21-7 Cougar run that finished by midpoint of the second half.
After making 13-of-28 shots in the first half, Knoxville missed 15-of-23 attempts in the second frame while committing 15 turnovers.
“I think they got a little tired and we wore them down,” said Odell. “They got a little frustrated (with the Azusa Pacific 3-point baskets) and begin bickering a little bit amongst themselves.”
With the setback, Knoxville returns to Tennessee with a 5-7 record. Earlier tonight, Faulkner downed Christian Heritage, 79-71, in the other second-round game of the NAIA Shootout.