Mens’s basketball beats Northwest Nazarene

On Friday, November 16th, the Azusa Pacific Cougars put on an offensive clinic at their home opener, blowing out the Northwest Nazarene Crusaders by the score of 97-75.

The first ten minutes of the game, the Cougars did not have the energy they were looking for and the tempo was in the hands of the Crusaders. But when the Cougars switched to a zone defense, they took control of the tempo and, essentially, took over the game.

“We made some adjustments…on both sides of the ball that we hadn’t anticipated going into the game,” Leslie said. “We kind of had to [make those changes] on the fly, and they responded really well.”

A huge source of Azusa Pacific’s success throughout the game was their team play. This showed through their 22 assists on 35 made baskets, shooting 56.5% from the field.

“We got aggressive, gained confidence, and played great unselfish basketball,” Leslie said. “We had 22 assists on 35 field goals, so it was a really efficient night, sharing the ball really well. I was really pleased with our poise out there.”

Sophomore guard Troy Leaf played a great all-around game for the Cougars, scoring 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting. He shot five-of-seven from downtown, led the team in boards with seven, dished out five assists, and tacked on three steals.

Senior guard B.J. Porter also contributed to Azusa Pacific’s high-powered offense Friday night, scoring 23 points on seven-of-10 shooting. He shot five-of-eight from three-point land, tied senior guard Justin Jones for leading the team in assists with six, and grabbed three boards.

Leaf credited the offense’s success to the offensive game plan. Regardless of he and Porter combining for over 50 points for the second time so far this season, the first time being at the season opener against Central Washington when they scored 52 total points, there is not one person designated to be the head of this offensive force.

“Our offense is not geared towards one person, so everyone’s going to get open looks,” Leaf said. “When guys are making that extra pass, you get even more open looks and tonight, we were making that extra pass.”

Porter took the same side as his teammate, saying if you don’t play unselfishly as a team, you cannot be successful.

“When you play good basketball and you move it around, it gets everybody involved, and the crowd gets involved because they want to see unselfish play,” Porter said. “If you don’t have any assists, you can’t win a game.”

Porter and Leaf’s offensive force led the Cougars, as they combined for more than half of the team’s points scored. However, if it was not for the inside presence of junior forward Christian Katuala and freshman forward Will Ward, the outside game would not have remained a threat through the length of the game.

“If you look at it, a third of our shots were taken by our two big guys,” Leslie said. “Christian took 10 and Will took 11, [totaling in] 21 of our 62 shots. I’d say that’s a pretty good balance. We’re getting good looks from those big guys and we’re going to continue to play inside-out. Those post players, it’s like the run game in football. We have to have production there and I’m very pleased with how it’s coming along.”

Out of a game full of positives, the energy that the Cougars brought was most encouraging to Leslie.

“What I’m most pleased with is the energy and how they play together,” Leslie said. “They defended really well; we changed defenses and the guys stayed up, they stayed energized, they stayed active, and as a result, you see the chemistry building.”

As the chemistry continues to build for the 2-1 Cougars, they look forward to this upcoming Friday night’s match-up, as they will be facing Young Harris College.

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