The Cougars acquired a third straight win after sweeping the Eagles this past weekend.

After the Cougars cruised to a 86-59 win against Concordia Irvine on Friday, basketball’s head coach Peter Bond was absolutely jubilated. Who could blame him? Despite the 27-point differential that favored his team, the dominance of the win is seen through the numbers. 

The Cougars shooting percentage was set at 54% from the floor. In comparison, the Eagles shooting percentage was a limited 38%. 

A total of four Cougar players finished in double-digits. The number of Eagles players to do the same? Just one – guard Henry Dayshore. 

The Cougars made nine three-pointers in the first half and finished the game with 12. During the 40 minutes Concordia had to make three-point shots, they only made one out of 10 shots. 

“Hopefully, I’ll get to talk to you under the same circumstances tomorrow,” Bond laughed about when finishing his interview Friday. “It was a great team win, but we understand that this team has a long way to go. We need to prove that today’s win was not a rarity. And we’ll have a chance to prove it tomorrow.”

That’s exactly what his team would do. Although Saturday’s game at Felix Event Center was not quite the one-sided affair fans witnessed on Friday – nor was it a similar shooting clinic for APU either –  Saturday’s 67-61 victory was a product of their grit in the paint, both offensively and defensively. Ultimately, it was an adjustment that led to brilliance.

From the beginning, it was clear that the Cougars perimeter shooting was not falling. In the first half, APU made only two of their seven three-point attempts. In the second half, they mimicked those same numbers. APU was getting a majority of their points from under the basket, and when layups failed it was usually a result of the opposition’s fouling troubles.

Points at the free-throw line were a major difference-maker in Saturday’s contest. The Cougars made it to the charity stripe 19 times throughout the game, making 17 of them. On the other hand, the Eagles only made four of their 11 attempts (36.4%) at the line. 

Senior guard Mandrell Worthy, who has endured an inspiring comeback story from a knee injury he acquired during the 2018 season, was a perfect eight for eight from the line, back boning a career-high 26 point performance.  

“I’m so thrilled that [Mandrell] is back. He’s had a tough recovery journey, both the severity of the injury and the length of time it took him to get back on the court,” Bond said. “Usually when guys are away from playing time for that long, they aren’t super present. But he was at every practice, and he was always willing to help the team in any way he physically could.”

The two wins against the Eagles advanced the Cougars record to 3-1, as APU responded to their opening-season loss with three straight victories. Although momentum throughout this high-paced season is more vital than in any season before, this weekend’s success does not feel very different compared to last weekend’s split against Biola according to Bond.

“I know we won the first game of this series, but really the feeling of heading into tomorrow’s game doesn’t feel much different to last week when we lost that first game,” Bond said after Friday’s win. “It is going to be the story of the year. We are going to need a constant level of maturity, regardless of previous outcomes. Last weekend we showed that, and we’ll need to show that every weekend from here on out.”

The Cougars’ level of maturity has been seen through their adaptability so far this season. Whether it be responding to a near double-digit loss to Biola, or needing to remain composed after a 30-point victory to Concordia Irvine, APU has shown during this young campaign that they are willing to answer the call under any emotion. If that composure remains, Bond and his team will likely celebrate several more times heading into February.

Unfortunately, the Cougars next scheduled series against Point Loma will not take place due to COVID-19 protocols. If the schedule remains consistent after this upcoming weekend, men’s basketball’s next series will be against Biola the following weekend on Feb. 12 and 13.