AZUSA, Calif. – It took awhile for this game to get a rhythm to it, but when it did senior guard Jeff Staniland went with the flow and scored a career-high 29 points to lead the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 109-74 Golden State Athletic Conference victory over California Baptist.
The game constantly hiccupped the first 13 minutes until a 15-2 Cougar run toward the end of the first half allowed Azusa Pacific to take control of the game at 45-31. Staniland led the way with 14 first-half points and Ryan Dillon added 12 on a quartet of treys.
The second half became just an exercise in basketball as the Cougars opened with a 28-9 run to put the game out of reach. For the game Staniland led 5 Cougars in double-digit scoring, recording his 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting. All-GSAC guard Caleb Gervin added 20 points in just 21 minutes of play, while freshman Lance Soderberg dropped in a career-high 20 points, going 5-for-5 from the floor and 10-for-11 from the line.
“In the first half the guys did a great job of getting me the ball on the post,” said Staniland “I had the smaller guard on me tonight, and that’s a good look for us when I can get on the post. In the second half, I had good looks from the perimeter and felt good on my shot.”
Seemingly all of Azusa Pacific felt good with its shot. The Cougars canned 34-of-53 (.642) field goal attempts for their second best single-game effort of the season (.655 vs. Vanguard).
Azusa Pacific led 49-38 at halftime despite Gervin playing only 7 minutes. With him in the game, the Cougars jumped out to a 20-7 lead at the start. However, he and California Baptist’s Jeff Berokoff were whistled for a double technical foul, which sent Gervin to the bench with 2 fouls.
With Gervin sealed to the sideline, CBU rallied back into the game and tied the score at 27-27 following a Drew Twiss trey with 7:43 left in the half. Gervin subbed back in briefly to relieve the Cougar backcourt and though he rarely touched the ball, his mere presence inspired the Cougars to the aforementioned 15-2 run to give the Cougars control of play the rest of the way.
With the victory, Azusa Pacific moves one step closer to its tenth GSAC championship in the past 11 years. The Cougars maintain a game-and-a-half lead over second-place Concordia with 3 games remaining on the slate.
“We know that we control our own destiny, and we don’t want to share the championship,” said Staniland, who broke an Azusa Pacific record tonight with his 133rd game appearance, snapping the previous standard of 132 set by Jim Wilson (1969-73) and Justin Leslie (1996-2001). “We want to treat every game with the importance it deserves.”
California Baptist was paced by Ryan Roberts' career-high 36 points. At one point, he had 27 of the Lancers 50 points in the game. Twiss was the only other Lancer in double-digits, tallying 14 points. Drew Langstraat, who entered the game with a team-high 16.1 scoring average, was held to just 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting.
“Their big guys wanted to get in there and bang hard with us,” said Soderberg, who over the past 2 games is 10-for-11 from the floor. “Coach was telling me that I was going to have to stay in front on Langstraat and not let him touch the ball.”
With the victory, Azusa Pacific, which collected its 18th victory in the past 19 meetings with CBU, improves to 23-4 overall, 15-2 in the GSAC. California Baptist drops to 15-13 overall, 6-11 in the GSAC.