After leading big in the first half, Azusa Pacific fended off a Cal Poly comeback to win 60-54.

The Men’s Basketball team came away with a win against Cal Poly Pomona in their season opener on Friday night at the Felix Event Center. The Cougars defended home court in their first game of the 2022 Cougar Classic. 

APU came out firing on offense shooting 40% from three and 58% from the field. On the other end of the ball, the Cougars held Cal Poly Pomona scoreless from behind the arc in the first half and kept the Broncos shooting 28% from the field.  Led by forward Ken West’s 17 point performance, the Cougars jumped out to an early lead.

The Cougars hot offensive start is a result from this week’s practice. When asked about getting shooters open, APU Head Coach Peter Bond noted how important it was. “We talked a lot about the nuances of the game, the angles that we need to attack at, the lanes we need to open up for passes. The guys did a great job executing that,” he said. 

At halftime APU led the Broncos 40-24. Despite the large lead heading into the half, Cal Poly Pomona was able to battle back in the second half. Sophomore guard Jaden Winfield kept the Broncos in the game with an 18 point outing. 

Cal Poly Pomona’s three point shooting struggles continued in the second half shooting only 1-7 from three. The Broncos found more success inside scoring 32 points in the paint. Meanwhile, the Cougars hot streak began to cool, shooting 25% from the field and behind the arc in the second half. 

The Broncos were able to tie it up in the second half at 50 with 4:18 remaining before McKelary Robertson found West for a big three and momentum swing. From there, the Cougars were able to make their free throws and pull away, leading 59-54 with 35 seconds left. 

“Our goal is to be a really good team this year,” Bond said. “What good teams have to do is be able to win in a variety of ways and one of those ways is just winning ugly. I know we can win pretty, but winning ugly is a good sign for this group.” 

West led all scorers for the Cougars with 17 points, shooting an impressive 5-8 from the three point line. The Cougars also saw strong offensive contributions from the bench as they finished with 22 bench points. APU had two other double-digit scorers, Nate Kleppe who finished with 11 points, and freshman big man Kaleb Taylor with 10. 

After picking up their first win of the season at home, the Cougars understand the momentum this win brings. “I think it’s everything honestly, getting off on the right foot,” West said. “We had a good crowd tonight and they gave us a lot of energy, especially in the second half.” 

After finishing second in the PacWest Conference last season, it seems there’s something special brewing again in Azusa this season. “We returned a lot of the same guys and added some new weapons that I think can be really good for our team this year. The chemistry on this team is different than anywhere I’ve ever been,” said sophomore guard Hayden Gray.

APU continues play in the Cougar Classic against Chico State on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 in the Felix Event Center.