Men’s basketball starts their season off with two wins on the road
Written by Brendan Fretwell, Guest Writer
The Azusa Pacific men’s basketball team won both of their weekend games on Nov. 10 and 11 against UC San Diego and Cal Poly Pomona, defeating them 70-62 and 70-58, respectively. The Cougars have started off their season with the desired 2-0 record that they had hoped for going into the weekend.
On Friday’s game against the UCSD Tritons, APU began on a 10-0 run and it looked as if this game was going to be more of a blowout than it turned out to be. At the half, the Cougars found themselves down 36-34.
Yet the Cougars were relentless as they continued to attack on offense and effectively shut down the UCSD defense. This powerful offensive game included a game ending 11-0 run that resulted in the Cougars having control of the score throughout.
“We got off to a fast start in both of the games and I think that was because of our energy level,” junior guard Will Ferris said. “We had a lot of big plays and that energy kept us going throughout the weekend.”
However, this win did not come without some uncertainty throughout the game. UCSD remained determined as they continued to score consistently and held a 55-53 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the game.
“Every team always has a run so we knew they were going to hit their stride at some point. We just had to focus on playing defense,” junior guard Darien McClain said.
This was a powerful start to the season for the Cougars and they put their dynamic offense on display as they went on two separate point runs at the beginning and end of the game.
With strong offensive contributions from senior forward Petar Kutlesic providing 14 points and nine rebounds, and McClain leading the Cougars with an 18-point performance, APU was effective in their scoring against the Tritons.
As time began to run low, the Cougars were practically perfect. In a 55-55 tie, the Cougars began their 11-0 run and pulled away from their competition as they held a steady lead over UCSD for the final two minutes ending the game up by eight points.
“Our bench did a really good job,” Ferris said. “The energy that we got from the bench was huge and the relay from our starters to the bench was great. We just kept it going.”
The Cougars knew they had to remain confident and consistent going into their next game against Cal Poly Pomona.
Saturday’s game against Cal Poly Pomona was an exciting one as APU came out aggressive. A fast start was key to this victory and the Cougars certainly got the job done in the first half.
Sophomore guard Mandrell Worthy had a terrific performance in the first half and assisted in a 15-0 run that created a 32-8 lead with just over seven minutes to play in the first half. The first half ended with APU having a commanding 22-point lead (43-21) over the Broncos. Worthy would lead the team with 17 points on the night.
Cal Poly Pomona refused to go down easy and answered the Cougars’ domination on the court with a 13-0 run of their own, cutting down the Cougars’ lead to 14 points with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
“They put us in a spot where we were uncomfortable, but I was thrilled with the way we handled it,” head coach Justin Leslie said.
The game ended with a final score of 70-58, and this win over Cal Poly Pomona could also be attributed to the defense as the Broncos were 4-for-23 from the three-point line and shot just 36 percent overall.
Some individual performances highlighted this game and the weekend overall for the Cougars. Three separate Cougars scored in the double-digits against CPP and Worthy led the team with 17 points. However, there is always room for improvement.
“We have a lot of things that we need to do better. It’s a slow process, but it’s one day at a time. We are going to focus on what is in our grasp for now,” Leslie said.
McClain contributed to the win with his 16 points, five rebounds and three steals as sophomore forward Selom Mawugbe provided a comfortable 10 points and seven rebounds. To wrap up the impressive personal performances from this match, Ferris was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arch.
Colorado Christian University is up next for the Cougars on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in APU’s home opener in the Felix Event Center.