AZUSA, Calif. – Azusa Pacific ran into a road block on its way to a 13th GSAC championship in 14 years, but it’s hard to say whether the obstruction took form in tonight’s foe, Point Loma Nazarene, or in the Cougars themselves.
There is no arguing that the Sea Lions played very well. A team that has battled injuries and absences all year is finally back together as a complete unit, and Cougar coach Bill Odell has always felt that Point Loma Nazarene, when completely together, was one of the premier teams in the conference. They looked it tonight. Point Loma Nazarene handed Azusa Pacific its second worse loss in Felix Event Center history, and considering that the 28-point thumping The Master’s laid on Azusa Pacific last year was against a depleted set of Cougars, tonight’s 76-55 pounding by Point Loma Nazarene is more embarrassing since the Cougars were at full strength. Sort of.
It’s hard to consider the Cougars had any strength when they miss 54 shots and the majority of them clanked off the front of the rim. The Cougars looked tired, uninspired and lethargic. Perhaps because they played a nail-biter just 48 hours prior at Cal Baptist, while Point Loma, which seemingly ran circles around the Cougars, enjoyed an off night from conference play Tuesday evening.
Azusa Pacific shot an icy 28% (21-for-75) from the floor. The Cougar starting line-up, which was a combined 11-for-42, was so bad that coach Bill Odell scrapped them and went to the end of the bench to find 5 players who hopefully could knock down a shot. They really couldn’t either, though back- ups Matt Oliver, Peter Bond, Kasey Myers, Ralph Miley and Justin Williamson did rally the Cougars back to within 14 points in the second half, primarily behind Miley’s 10 points in 9 minutes of play. But Point Loma was too fast, too strong and too accurate tonight, and thus the Sea Lions picked up just their third win over Azusa Pacific in the past 15 years.
Point Loma Nazarene led 37-29 at halftime, using defense and rebounding to put the Cougars in their largest halftime deficit of the season. Azusa Pacific missed 27 of its first 38 shots while whatever Point Loma missed, the Sea Lions got the rebound and put it back in, out-scoring the Cougars 15-2 on second-chance points. All-GSAC center Tim Kruge tallied 11 points and 5 rebounds in the opening half on his way to game highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Matt Benson added 16 points and 5 rebounds for the game.
Perhaps an odd silver lining to the defeat is that the top 4 teams in the GSAC all lost tonight. Along with the Cougars, San Diego Christian, Vanguard and Westmont went down to defeat. Yet, on the other hand, adding to the frustration is the thought that Azusa Pacific could have clinched the GSAC championship tonight had it beaten Point Loma. Instead, it ran into a roadblock.
The Cougars fall to 23-4 overall, 14-3 in the GSAC. Point Loma Nazarene, which now is the hunt for at least a second-place finish in the GSAC, improves to 15-8 overall, and 10-6 in the GSAC.