SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Point Loma Nazarene seemingly did everything right. The Crusaders held the hot-shooting Cougars to less than 50% shooting, limited their free throw opportunities to just 15 attempts and forced the usually sure-hand Cougars into 14 turnovers. They even held the Cougars to a season-low 64 points. And yet, Azusa Pacific prevailed again, beating Point Loma Nazarene, 64-63, for its tenth straight win in Golden Gymnasium, and its 24th victory in the past 25 meetings with Point Loma.
It’s really what Point Loma didn’t do rather than what it did that cost the Crusaders their first home victory over Azusa Pacific since 1992. The Crusaders missed all 12 of its shots from beyond the 3-point arc, including one in the final 5 seconds that would have forced overtime. Instead, they had to settle for a put-back at the buzzer and a gut-wrenching loss to the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Cougars.
Azusa Pacific grabbed the lead from the get-go, using a Caleb Gervin trey followed by a Gervin jumper to stake its claim to a 5-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. And other than a brief 28-27 Point Loma lead that lasted for less than 30 seconds, Azusa Pacific led throughout the game. But the Cougars could never shake Point Loma, which despite failing from the perimeter, kept itself in the game by knocking down shots in the key.
The Cougars closed the first half with a 9-0 run to go up 36-28 at halftime, and following a Ladrick Simon jumper Azusa Pacific found itself enjoying an 11-point margin (44-33) 4 minutes into the second half. The Crusader pulled back to within 4 at 49-48, but he Cougars answered again with a 6-0 run in which Simon scored 4 of his 15 points, including 2 on an emphatic dunk. Azusa Pacific moved out to a 9-point lead (59-50) with 6 minutes to play, but unlike a week ago when the Cougars let an 8-point lead slip through their hands in the final 5 minutes of the Westmont game, Azusa Pacific held on this time.
Point Loma missed 7 straight shots in the final 5 minutes, including a pair of treys, and only a meaningless Matt Enloe put-back at the buzzer snapped the cold spell. Ryan Dillon’s free throw with 11 seconds left gave the Cougars their first point in nearly 3 minutes but more importantly it give Azusa Pacific a 3-point cushion, forcing Point Loma into doing the dreaded – shooting a 3-pointer on its final possession.
Gervin led Azusa Pacific with 16 points, snapping his string of 9 straight 20-point outings. Jeff Staniland had 13 points and Brett Michel added 10.
Point Loma, which falls to 14-7 overall, 6-4 in the GSAC, was paced by Trenton Berglund’s game-high 24 points.
Azusa Pacific, which has now won 12 of its past 13 games, improves to 17-3 on the season, 9-1 in the GSAC to remain in a tie for first place in the GSAC with Concordia.