Squandering a 19 point lead, the Cougars look to move on from a tough loss
On Tuesday, the Azusa Pacific Cougars took on the Chaminade Silver Swords in the Felix Event Center. An intense game from the tip-off, it looked as if the Cougars were going to seal a dominating win, but Chaminade had other plans as they ended up defeating the Cougars 77-75.
The game was fast-paced from the beginning as both teams looked to set the tone. With APU jumping out to an early 10-2 lead, the Cougars were in control from the start. As the first half continued, both sides played good basketball, but the Cougars slowly began to pull away from Chaminade.
At halftime, APU led Chaminade 40-30. The Cougars went 15 of 26 from the field in the first half including 5 of 12 from the three-point line. A big component to the Cougar’s scoring was their bench. In the first half alone, APU’s bench outscored Chaminade’s 16 to 3. By the end of the game, they outscored Chaminade 25 to 5.
The first half went very well for the Cougars. Although their offense was firing on all cylinders, it was their defense that was responsible for their lead.
“Defensively we were getting stops, which led to transition opportunities,” said head coach Justin Leslie.
As both teams returned to the court for the second half, Chaminade continued to fall behind as the Cougars kept up their solid defensive play. On the offensive side, the Cougars were led by senior Will Ferris.
Ferris had a terrific game finishing with 23 points and shooting 9 for 15 on the night. At one point in the first half, Ferris hit back-to-back three-pointers which built APU’s already commanding lead and caused Chaminade to call a timeout in frustration.
However, after the Cougars pushed their lead to a whopping 19 points, Chaminade changed their play and began to chip away at the Cougars’ lead. As the intensity of the game grew, the Cougars began to get into foul trouble and Chaminade nailed their free-throw opportunities. Chaminade ended up scoring eight points from free throws, enough to get them the win.
Perhaps the Cougars’ biggest mistake of the night was their ball handling. APU ended the game with 21 turnovers. Chaminade scored 22 points off these turnovers.
“We had 21 turnovers. That’s a dominant stat,” Leslie said. “Turning the ball over 21 times means that’s 21 times that you don’t get to shoot.”
As time became a big factor, Chaminade began to step on the gas. APU maintained a 75-74 lead with less than a minute left. However, with a missed shot and a subsequent Chaminade possession, the Silver Swords marched the ball up the court and took a three-point shot. This dealt the fatal blow to the Cougars with 8.3 seconds remaining.
This was a tough loss for the Cougars, but they know they need to put this game behind them, since they have another contest in just two days against Hawai’i Hilo.
“Hilo beat us last time and they play really aggressive,” Ferris said. “If we turn the ball over 21 times against them, we’re going to lose again. We just have to come into the next one with a more intense focus on taking care of the ball.”
The Cougars’ next game will be on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Felix Event Center.