APU shot over 60 percent on the night while keeping the Sunbirds under 40 percent
On Thursday, Jan. 24 the Azusa Pacific men’s basketball team took on the (5-5) Fresno Pacific (FPU) Sunbirds in the Felix Event Center. Although the Sunbirds played a solid defense game, the Cougars outmatched them and strolled to a 96-63 victory.
APU dominated both offensively and defensively throughout the game. They held the lead for almost 35 of the 40 minutes.
The Cougars rode a two-game win streak into this contest with victories over Biola and Notre Dame de Namur. The Sunbrids also came in hot as victors of three of their last four games. However, FPU’s impressive play came to a halt even before the end of the first half.
The first ten minutes of the contest bounced back-and-forth. After 10 minutes, the Cougars had managed to create a four point lead. They compounded on this lead by going on a 13-0 run. At the end of the half, APU was shooting an impressive 55.9 percent of their field goals and 41.2 percent from behind the three-point line.
In the second half, the Cougars did not take their foot off the gas. They finished the game making 40 of their 63 shots (63.5 percent). Senior guard Will Ferris finished with 22 points going 8-14 on the night.
“When you know you’re in that little zone you think of all the hard work that you put in. You’re not even thinking about your shot, and that’s a big problem for me. When I start thinking, I start missing,” Ferris said. “It’s awesome to get into that mode because I spend a lot of time with my coaches working on my shot, so it feels good to reward them as well.”
Ferris wasn’t the only strong performer of the game, as junior forward Selom Mawugbe finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and senior point guard Darien McClain finished with nine points and four assists. APU played even more dominant on the opposite end of the court.
The Cougars constantly disrupted passing lanes only letting the Sunbirds accumulate eight assists during the course of the game. This held FPU to 38.9 percent in their field goal shooting. APU also collected 10 turnovers on the night.
“The emphasis was taking away their drives to the basket because most assists come from penetration of some kind that puts you in a rotation or a scramble. So we just wanted to stay out of those spots,” said Head Coach Justin Leslie. “We wanted to make guys with the ball finish tough shots because we knew that we could get them to take those tough shots if we were doing our jobs.”
Junior guard Noah Bundrant has been one of the key components behind the Cougars’ impressive defensive play this year. During the game, he held a plus/minus of +25.
“I definitely take pride on the defensive end, and I always do my best to get stops, especially against their top scorers,” Bundrant said.
Following this one sided affair, the Cougars will now be tested with a four game stretch away from APU. They’ll be heading to Hawaii next week to play three games against conference foes.
“You just have a focus before you even get there,” Ferris said. “You know you won’t practice as much because you have game after game, and in Hawaii it’s tougher to play in that different environment. So it’s gonna come down to trust in each other and our coaches.”
The first of the three road games is against Chaminade on Monday, Jan. 28.