RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. Number 13-ranked California Baptist University came out Saturday night ready to defend its home court and handed Azusa Pacific a chilly 74-55 defeat, avenging its only loss of the season.
The Lancers remain on top of the PacWest with a 14-1 conference record, sitting 20-1 on the season. The Cougars drop to 11-9 overall, 7-7 in conference.
"It was just a great night for the school," said head coach Rick Croy. "We had such great support at their place, but we didn't compete the way we wanted to. We've been chomping at the bit and anxious for our opportunity to compete against them again. We respect their program, so for our school to show up the way it did, it means everything to us."
Ryan Berg led three Lancers scoring in double figures with 18 points (6-for-15), followed by Anthony Cosentino with 17 points (6-for-13). Chris Brown rounded out the trio with a 10-point performance, going 5-for-8 from the field and dishing three assists without turning the ball over.
Brown set the tone for the Lancers, stealing the ball away from a Cougar for the first bucket of the night. Cosentino followed with a shot from distance and Kyle Wong hit a three to give CBU an early 8-4 lead.
The Cougars weren’t going to roll over easy, however, and tied the game at 8-8 before taking over the lead at 14-11.
Down by five, Michael Smith sank a shot from distance to put the Lancers within two at 18-16 and Eric Hunt gave CBU back the lead at 19-18, hitting a three of his own. Ivan Patterson kept the run alive with a jumper, putting CBU in front by two possessions.
APU tied the game at 30-30 with a little less than three minutes remaining in the half, but free throws from Garrett Jefferson and Berg, plus a nothing-but-net three from Cosentino handed the Lancers the 35-30 halftime score.
After allowing the Cougars to shoot 58-percent from the field in the first, the Lancers keyed down on defense, allowing just one two-point basket on five attempts in the first five minutes.
Meanwhile, offensively the Lancers set into a groove and opened up their lead into double-digit range at 44-33 off a three from Berg. CBU continued on the tear, extending its lead to 53-33 before APU could end the 12-0 run.
The Cougars tried to battle back into the contest, cutting the score down into the teens, but CBU kept its defensive pressure on as the home squad kept the visitors to a 24.1 shooting percentage from the field in the second half.
"We wanted to stay on our assignments," said Croy. "They're a really strong offensive team with a lot of weapons. We knew they'd make the runs, we just wanted to stay on them. We did tonight. At their place, we let them loose a few times and they made a run that was tough to weather. Tonight we were locked in. It was probably one of our best defensive games of the year."
CBU returned to its 20-point margin as Berg intercepted a pass and made a fast break layup to put the Lancers in front 67-47, erupting Van Dyne in cheers. The Lancers continued the offensive prowess, building up their highest lead of the night at 71-49 with just under five left to play.
Determined to get their revenge, the Lancers closed out the last minutes of the contest with high energy to claim the 74-55 victory.
The Lancers remain at home for the next three games, hosting three squads from Hawaii to close out the regular season home campaign. Chaminade provides the first contender for the Lancers, taking on CBU Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
"For us right now, we have six amazing seniors and we're just cherishing each moment with these guys," said Croy. "We know we're guaranteed three more at home and we're taking them one-by-one. We're so appreciative of the school, alumni, faculty and staff and overall support. It's been pretty magical."