Calif. --- Imagine a sibling rivalry where little brother annoys big brother for awhile until finally big brother has enough and puts an end to the tussle. That's pretty much what transpired inside the Van Dyne Gym Tuesday night.
Azusa Pacific and California Baptist University have had some epic battles the past few seasons, and by all accounts this is supposed to be a different year. After all, Azusa Pacific has nine seniors and returned nearly every player from last year's NAIA runner-up team while the Lancers have nine new players and no seniors. It had all the makings of a classic big brother/little brother scenario.
Tonight, age and experience won this battle. Though, the younger, less experienced guys gave 'em quite a run.
The NAIA's No. 10-ranked Cougars used a quick 11-2 second half run and got 20 points and 10 rebounds from Reggie Owens, the GSAC's leading scorer, to escape Riverside with a 74-66 victory over upset-minded CBU.
The loss is the Lancers' second straight as they fall to 7-7 overall, 1-4 GSAC. The Cougars improve to 13-2, 4-1. It is just the third time in 10 meetings the higher-ranked team left with a win.
"We played pretty well and gave ourselves a chance to maybe steal a big one tonight," said CBU Head Coach Tim Collins, "but we're just not quite there yet, and that is a very good team. I can't help but be proud of our effort tonight, because they (Azusa Pacific) are capable of just blowing teams out. We fought hard all night."
In a game that seemed much closer than the final eight-point margin indicated, which isn't surprising since each of the previous eight meetings have been decided by seven points or less and four the previous six went into overtime, the Lancers made the Cougars sweat this one out. It was the Cougars' depth and experience, though, which took over when it mattered most.
After taking punches for more than 30 minutes from a game Lancer squad, Azusa Pacific finally looked every part of the veteran team it is, especially during a two-minute stretch late in the game that turned a tenuous three-point lead into a comfortable 12-point advantage, the largest of the night.
The Cougars led 54-51 when Caleb Burgess, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half, scored the first two of eight straight Cougar points with a lay-up with 9:28 to play. The Cougars forced the Lancers into three of their nine second half turnovers over the next minute, converting each of them into points, and then Burgess capped the game-clinching 11-2 run with a trey to make it 65-53 with 7:36 left.
"I wish we had more depth like they do, because when we had to start subbing in the second half, that's when they went on their run and we couldn't recover," said Collins, referring to the Cougars' depth, which has 11 guys averaging double-digit minutes.
The Lancers got within seven (67-60) on a free throw by Ivan Patterson with 6:09 to play then had the ball with a chance to get within five, but got called for an offensive foul and got no closer the rest of the night.
Patterson (4 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Nick Paulson (9 points, 4 assists) combined for 13 points, seven assists and two steals off the bench. They were the only bench players that scored for CBU.
"I thought Ivan and Nick played very well off the bench," said Collins. "They gave us good energy, which is good to see from the young guys."
The Lancers closed the first half with a 10-2 run and carried a 32-31 lead into the locker room. Patterson started the flurry with a 3-pointer from the corner as the Lancers scored eight straight to take their first lead since 7-6 just 5:31 in. There were six lead changes in the first 20 minutes, half of them in the final minute.
Burgess gave the Cougars the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 15:37 to play, making it 42-39. The lead ballooned to seven (46-39) on a pair of Marshall Johnson free throws, but the Lancers rallied and cut it to 54-51 with 9:44 to play on a Von Wright triple. That's when the Cougars went on their game-clinching run.
"Azusa is a hard team to put away," said Collins. "If that's a two- or three-point game and we have veterans like they did, then you have shot. It's tough to beat a good team like that when you have an inexperienced team. But, we know we can play with the good teams now. We just have to work a little bit harder and get a little bit better and maybe we'll start knocking off some of the teams we maybe shouldn't beat."