APU Women's Basketball pose with their pacWest Championship Trophy

Both Azusa Pacific University basketball programs reminded the PacWest that APU is among the big dogs in the conference.

March Madness is often associated with buzzer-beaters and heartbreak. These aspects ran rampant in the PacWest. The PacWest Conference Tournament kicked off last week, with APU Women’s Basketball sitting on top of seeding while APU Men’s Basketball was the second seed.


The men defeated Hawaii Hilo University and arch-rival Biola University to advance to the championship. There, they faced the Academy of the Art Urban Knights.

Art U went on numerous runs throughout the game but left the door open for the Cougars by carelessly turning the ball over and missing key defensive assignments. 

In a back and forth affair, the game came down to the final minutes. The Cougars found themselves down nine with less than five minutes to play. After a hot start from the three-point line, the Cougars cooled down in the second half.

In the first half, they shot 37% from the deep, sophomore big Ken West and freshman guard Nate Kleppe led the way for the Cougar on the perimeter. In the second half, that production steeply declined, the Cougars shooting 22% from three and 28% from the field overall. 

West and Kleppe were seemingly frozen out of the offense. Kleppe sat in the corner while guards tried to get downhill on ArtU’s perimeter defenders, while West wasn’t able to get the ball. The offense went stagnant, and ArtU went on a run.

APU went 8-0, getting to the charity stripe three possessions in a row behind offensive rebounds and unwarranted Urban Knight fouls in the backcourt. 

With two minutes left in the game, APU cut the lead to one with the ball. They had not one, but three opportunities to take the lead and didn’t convert. The Cougar lost 70-73 but were still selected to participate in the NCAA DII March Madness Tournament.

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