SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – He could not have penned a better story had he written it himself.
Azusa Pacific head coach Bill Odell picked a timely moment to collect collegiate career win No. 400 as his top-ranked Cougars used a 17-2 run early in the second half to propel the Cougars to a 92-68 victory over Odell’s alma mater and GSAC rival Westmont.
“It feels good to get win No. 400, but it feels better to be 2-0 this early in conference play,” said Odell, who picked up win No. 400 in game No. 500 at Azusa Pacific. “I really didn’t think about it that much coming into the game. I was more surprised that this is my 500th game at Azusa Pacific.”
Junior Demario Butler scored a game-high 20 points, including 14 in the second half, and junior Scott Zea added 17 off the bench to lead Azusa Pacific to its largest margin of victory ever in Westmont’s Murchison Gym.
The Cougars broke open a tight game by scoring 15 consecutive points. Sophomore Mike Hornbuckle, starting in the place of Colton Cornfoot who remained home with strep throat, buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key and then followed with a pair of free throws to give Azusa Pacific its first double-digit lead of the game at 58-47 with 14 minutes left to play. Yet, that was just part of a run in which Azusa Pacific made 7 straight shots and scored on 9 of 11 possessions to balloon its cushion to 68-49 following a Matt Oliver jumper midway through the second half.
“I was really pleased with Matt’s play tonight,” said Odell. “With Colton out, I wasn’t sure whether to keep my regular substitution pattern or play without a man. But Matt played well in practice this week and deserved the opportunity. He did some very good things for us.”
Azusa Pacific led 41-37 after Zea snapped a 35-all tie with back-to-back treys to close the half. Westmont led 15-10 early in the game before the Cougars responded with an 8-0 run. Oliver’s conventional 3-point play knotted the game at 15. Azusa Pacific pushed its advantage to 6 at 35-29, but the Warriors rallied to tie the game for the seventh time in the half.
Josh Reisman added a season-high 16 points, while Hornbuckle finished with 12 points.
Azusa Pacific poured it on over the final 10 minutes of the game, leading by as much as 27 following a Butler jumper before settling for the 24-point margin of victory, the Cougars’ third victory by more than 20 in just 6 games this season.
The Cougars shot a season-best 58% (34-for-59) from the floor, including a sizzling .630 (17-for-27) clip in the second half. Plus, they committed a microscopic 5 turnovers.
“We still have a lot of improvement to make,” said Odell, “but I’m happy with how we played in the second half. We were a little more patient offensively and didn’t have to play as much defense.”
With the victory Azusa Pacific improves to 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the GSAC. Westmont falls to 5-2 overall, 1-1 in the GSAC.