APU unable to complete Cornerstone comeback bid on the road at Biola

The packed Chase Gymnasium witnessed a Cornerstone Cup matchup for the history books. The second matchup between these teams in PacWest play brought a lot of firepower and excitement, but Azusa Pacific would eventually fall to Biola, 73-70.

The Cougars took a two-point lead early in the game, however that lead would last just over three minutes. Biola took the lead and it was all APU could do to keep the game close. The half-court offense of the Eagles was able to break through the notably tough defense of the Cougars, and APU struggled to hit shots on the other end.

“They play a very slow and deliberate style of basketball,” head coach Justin Leslie said. “It requires a great amount of energy and focus in order to fight through that and continue to play at our pace. I’ve said it many times, we are a team that makes people miss shots, and tonight they put us to sleep. They sapped our defensive energy. We just consistently made mistakes that led to quality looks for them, and we give them credit for making them.”

At halftime, Biola led 36-28. The Eagles’ offense in the first half ran through Alex Talma, the junior forward and senior guard Blake Shannon Jr., who had 11 and 6 points, respectively. The bright spot for the Cougars on offense was sophomore guard Mandrell Worthy, who had 13 points at the break.

The Cougars came out of half time looking to make a run, cutting the lead down to two points in the opening minute and a half. However, for every Azusa Pacific run, the Eagles made a run of their own, and just four minutes later, the lead was back up to 10 points.

Biola kept their lead at around 10 points until late in the game, when junior guard Darien McClain and Worthy started pouring on the points, cutting the lead back to two. A corner three from senior forward Corey Langerveld gave the Cougars their first lead of the half with just under two minutes left to play. Biola’s Trevor Treinen tied the game with a key free throw.

The Eagles got the ball back with under 30 seconds left and Shannon hit the game-winning three with four seconds left, capping an excellent personal night. The senior was 7-12 from three-point range and finished with 21 points on the night. He was followed closely by Alex Talma, who contributed 19 points on the night.

Just as in the first half, Worthy contributed to much of the Cougars’ offense. He finished the night with 23 points, followed by McClain with 13 points and senior duo Corey Langerveld and Petar Kutlesic who each had 12 points.

“We knew they were going to play better at home. They were going to shoot better, they were going to come out with more energy because they had their fans behind them,” Worthy said following the game. “They made adjustments this time. They had way more energy and in the first half they showed it. They got a quick lead on us and they kept it throughout the whole game.”

Now sitting at a record of 15-8, The Cougars have a full week to prepare for their next slate of games. On Saturday, Feb. 10 the team will play their next home game against Dominican, followed by Chaminade and Hawai’i Hilo, which are also at home.

McClain looks forward to the homestand as a chance for the team to prove themselves.

“No more excuses. There’s nothing we can really say anymore, we have got to do it through our actions, not through what we say. We talk about ‘oh we are this good or that good’ when, in reality, we just gotta put it into our play.”