ROXBURY, Mass.. – Azusa Pacific put together a 31-7 blitz that stretched across both halves to break open a tight game and go on to steamroll University of Maine-Machias, 96-57, in the opening game of the Fisher Winter Classic held in the south side of Boston.
All 14 Cougars played and 10 of them scored at least 6 points. Demario Butler and Colton Cornfoot led the way with 12 points, both in less than 20 minutes of play. In fact, point guard Kasey Myers, who chipped in with 8 points on 4-for-5 shooting, was the only Cougar to play over 20 minutes (21) in a game that Azusa Pacific finally took over by playing hard-nosed defense.
The Cougars, who are averaging over 19 takeaways a game, forced Maine-Machias into 28 turnovers, including 16 in the first half, many of which turned into fast-break dunks at the other end.
With the Cougars leading just 20-18 midway through the first half, Azusa Pacific scored 12 straight points to take control of the game. They induced 7 Clipper turnovers in a 4-minute stretch, including 3 straight by UMM point guard Tito Arias, who was pressed into duty when starter Anthony McCoy picked up 3 quick fouls that put him on the bench. The Cougars took advantage of Arias, forcing him into 12 ball-handling miscues for the game
Azusa Pacific closed the first half on a 20-7 run to lead 40-25 at the break and then scored the first 11 points of the second half, including 4 on back-to-back thunderous dunks by Butler and Lance Soderberg. The Cougars led 51-25 less than 3 minutes into the half and the rout was on. Azusa Pacific led by as much as 46 at 83-37 with just under 7 minutes to play before settling for the 39-point margin victory, the Cougars’ sixth win by more than 20 points this season.
“I think the lengthy travel, time change and the weeklong layoff had a lot to do with our sluggish start,” said Cougar coach Bill Odell. “Yesterday at practice it took us awhile to get us going, and it was same today as well.”
Azusa Pacific, which committed just 7 turnovers itself, scored 30 points off UMM’s 28 turnovers. Additionally, the Cougar bench sparked the play, scoring over half of the team’s 96 points.
“The second group helped us pick up some intensity,” said Odell, “and when starters went back in they shut them down defensively.”
Scott Zea added 11 points of the bench while starters Soderberg and Brice Prather each tossed in 10 points. Prather, along with the 5-foot-10 Myers, led the team with 7 rebounds while Butler finished with a game-high 6 assists.
“Demario played well and Colton is getting his stroke back,” said Odell.
Azusa Pacific has now won 9 straight and improves to 10-1 on the season for its best start since the 2001 Cougars won 14 of their first 15 contests. Maine-Machias, which led by Charles Calligan’s game-high 21 points, falls to 1-7.