An efficient night on both ends of the ball gives APU an 87-57 win over Dominican
The Penguins of Dominican University kept the game against Azusa Pacific close… during the first half at least.
Another fantastic defensive performance paired with a great offensive night for senior forward Petar Kutlesic was the recipe for Saturday’s 87-57 win over Dominican, helping APU improve to 16-8 overall.
The Cougars were locked in a tight battle with the Penguins for the first 15 minutes of the first half, but were able to expand their lead to around 10 points for the remainder of the half. Kutlesic led the way with 14 points, followed by Mandrell Worthy and Darien McClain who had 12 and eight points respectively. At the break, the Cougars led 43-34.
Azusa Pacific started the second half on a 13-0 run, expanding the lead to 22 points. Head Coach Justin Leslie praised his team for the way that they were able to adjust to the way Dominican was playing and the ability to counter that on defense.
“We talked about some of the things that they were doing in the first half that we need to be ready for in the second,” Leslie said. “It was one of those moments where some minor tweaks to the defense and our coverages fit with what they were doing. But then, I’ve got to give the guys some credit, they picked Dominican up really well. They were trying to overload the zone, send a lot of cutters through, put four guys on one side of the floor to try to catch a numbers advantage, and the guys talked and figured it out really well and kind of flustered them. You could tell that was their half time, to go in and make these adjustments, and the players go out there and recognize that and render it ineffective.”
The Cougars were able to keep up the intensity on both sides of the ball, forcing another six turnovers to add to the nine from the first half. Junior guard Will Ferris shot 50 percent from behind the three-point arc and had 11 points in the half. Kutlesic had another nine points, while Selom Mawugbe and Corey Langerveld added six points each. McClain ended the game with seven assists and no turnovers.
Ferris noted the team’s collective energy in the second half.
“I just think we came out with a lot more energy. Defensively, we were way more active. They weren’t getting good looks and we were just tipping the ball and making good reads. Obviously, our defense always helps boost our offense and that’s exactly what happened today,” Ferris said.
Azusa Pacific’s defense produced seven steals, three blocks and held the Penguins to 39 percent shooting from the field.
“Our goal is pretty simple. We’ve shown ourselves our recipe for when we are good, and that’s when teams shoot sub-40 percent, when we’re out rebounding them and we’re valuing the ball. Those are all things we did tonight. We didn’t shoot the lights out tonight. We scored 87 points but it wasn’t because we shot great, we defended great. We out rebounded them and we got more shots up because we didn’t turn it over,” Leslie noted about the defensive performance.
The Cougars have a short turnaround, with games coming up on the Monday and Thursday of this week. Kutlesic looks ahead to what he and this team have in mind going forward.
“[In our last game before today], we made a mistake against Biola, just overlooking them, because we had a clear path. We’ve had to win six games, but we didn’t really focus on Biola,” Kutlesic said. “So, we’ve got to focus on one game at a time. We can definitely win out [the last four games of the season], there’s no question about that. It’s just keeping all the guys engaged and do whatever coach has asked us to do.”
On Thursday, Feb. 15, the Cougars will play in their final home game of this season, and seniors Petar Kutlesic and Corey Langerveld will be honored on that night.