By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
Azusa Pacific University hasn’t quite lived up to the billing of being the NAIA preseason favorite during the first month of the men’s basketball season, but Tuesday night was the exception. Reggie Owens scored 15 points and Danny Nugent had 12, and the No. 9 Cougars rolled to a 71-57 victory over archrival Biola in a Golden State Athletic Conference game at the Felix Event Center. APU, also getting 11 points from Marshall Johnson, improved to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The No. 16 Eagles, getting 17 points from Curtis Eatmon, lost for the first time this season, dropping to 7-1 and 2-1.
“We can be pretty good when we decide to be,” APU coach Justin Leslie said. “We still have a long way to go. The consistency is not quite there.
“We played pretty well. We defended. We had some big plays out there defensively that got us going. I thought there were a lot of good things; as a result it frustrated them. I was pleased with the effort.”
The Cougars took advantage early, scoring the game’s first seven points before enjoying leads of 12-4 and 21-11.
Biola’s David Cline, who had seven points in the first half, cut it to 16-11 with a 3-point play at 11:39, but APU countered, pushing it to 26-15 following a 3-point play by Mike Caffese at 10:04 and a 3-pointer by Robert Sandoval at 7:52.
James Staniland then finished off a 7-2 surge for a 39-24 lead at 1:32 before Biola closed the half with a 5-0 run to pull within 39-29 on a 3-point play by Eatmon.
Owens took over in the second half, making his first three inside shots, including a 3-point play. Caleb Burgess followed with a 3-pointer, and the Cougars had a comfortable advantage at 53-32 with 16:14 left in the game.
Biola, however, wasn’t dead. The Eagles scored the next nine points to pull within 55-41 following back- to-back layups by Cline before Eatmon buried a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 61-50 with 7:19 to play.
“They are a hard team to play against,” Leslie said. “They don’t let you get comfortable – ever. They switch up and protect the paint so well.
“They rattled us a little bit, and we didn’t always respond great, but we did just enough.”
APU sealed it with a 9-0 run capped by a Johnson dunk for a 69-50 lead with 5:07 to go.
Biola 66, APU 57
Christina Barclay had a game-high 16 points and former La Serna standout Jennifer French scored 13, and the visiting Eagles beat the Cougars in a battle of NAIA top-20 teams.
Jessilynn Conicelli had 12 points for No. 12 Biola, which has won five of its last seven games to improve to 7-2 and 2-1 in the GSAC. Eboni Sadler had 17 points and nine rebounds and Briana Hall had 10 points for No. 3 APU, which slipped to 8-2 and 2-1.
The Eagles, getting eight points from Barclay and back- to-back 3-pointers by French and Lauren Gustafson, started fast, building leads of 14-2 and 28-8. APU, which had its six-game winning streak snapped, scored nine consecutive points and closed the first half with a 19-6 surge to trail 34-27.
APU got within nine at 61-52 on a drive and layup by Hall with 1:49 to play, but the Eagles made five of eight free throws down the stretch to clinch it.
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