For much of the night the game was anything but a basketball contest and resembled more of a wrestling match with the usually finesse-playing Cougars evidently being the aggressor, accounting for 26 of the 50 fouls whistled in the game.
Azusa Pacific came in averaging a GSAC-best 91 points a game and appeared to be headed toward a routine effort, scoring the game’s first 7 points in less than 30 seconds action. However, the game came to a grinding halt, with neither team scoring for a 4-minute stretch, and in time Azusa Pacific was held to a season-low 28 points in the first half while clinging to a one-point advantage at the break.
“We got out to that run to start the game, and they (officials) took over,” said a frustrated Azusa Pacific coach Bill Odell after the game. “They were very inconsistent and allowed the play to be way too physical. It was an ugly game because of they way they called it.”
The Cougars, who missed 21-of-30 shots in the first half, finally found their touch midway through the second half and drained 6-of-7 shots in a 5-minute span, including back-to-back 3-point baskets by Demario Butler and Cornfoot. Azusa Pacific turned a 45-42 advantage into a 65-49 cushion with Reisman and Cornfoot combining for 11 of the Cougars’ 20 points in the run.
“Concordia played hard and physical, and I have to tip my hat to them,” said Reisman. “They took us out of our fast break, so at halftime coach had us go to our half-court offense and secondary break. It worked well for us.”
Butler, who came into the game averaging 23 points in GSAC play, was saddled with foul trouble all night. Yet he still finished with 15 points before fouling out in just 16 minutes of play. Scott Zea added 12 points in his first start as a Cougar, while Cornfoot added 13 points, 11 in the second half, to go along with 7 rebounds.
“I needed a game like this,” said Cornfoot. “I’ve struggled recently, but it felt good to contribute at key moments tonight.
Reisman also had a game-high 3 steals, including one that led to a Lance Soderberg breakaway dunk after Concordia briefly cut the Cougar lead to single digits late in the game.
“In the second half we wanted to do more off the dribble because of the way Concordia was holding us on defense,” said Odell. “Josh plays very well off the dribble, and this was certainly the best he has played all year.”
Concordia’s Rocky Soliday scored a game-high 20 points, including 18 in the second half as he single-handedly tried to keep the Eagles in the contest.
“We told our players this was going to be a difficult game,” said Odell. “Concordia’s back is to the wall with 2 losses earlier this week, and they always play us tough.”
The victory, which is Azusa Pacific’s first in Irvine since 2003, pushes the Cougars’ winning streak to 13 straight. Azusa Pacific improves to 14-1 overall, 5-0 in the GSAC while Concordia falls to 8-7 overall, 1-4 in the GSAC.