Dry spell hurts Warriors in loss to 10th-ranked Cougars
Right when it appeared the ball was bouncing Lewis-Clark State College’s way, it stopped going in the basket.
Going scoreless for the final 5:39 of the first half and the first 2:38 of the second half, the Warrior men’s basketball team watched its three-point lead against the 10th-ranked team in the NAIA turn into an 18 point deficit as LCSC fell to Azusa Pacific 78-57 in the Life Flight Holiday Tournament at the LCSC Activity Center on Saturday night.
The Warriors, 8-3 overall, matched the highly-regarded Cougars basket for basket through the first 14 minutes of the game, and even had the intensity edge. LCSC, however, went cold from the field and couldn’t overcome the 21-point run by the 9-2 Cougars.
“I thought the difference was consistency and mental toughness,” LCSC coach Tim Walker said. “We have that 5 minute stretch where we don’t score in the first half and then they score six straight to start the second half. They didn’t seem to waiver offensively or defensively and we did waiver.”
Azusa Pacific returns four starters from last year’s squad which advanced to the NAIA National Tournament championship game before falling. The Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the NAIA preseason poll, but a couple of losses knocked it to No. 10. LCSC received votes in the last poll.
Despite the 21-point run that turned a 26-23 lead into a 44-28 deficit, the Warriors did cut the margin to 11 points twice. The first time was 46-35 when post Ray Stout scored at the 14:42 mark, but APU answered with a 9-0 run for a 55-35 advantage. The Warriors made another nice run to cut it to 58-47 with 9:14 left, but APU again had an answer and cruised to the win.
“I thought our guys played hard and competed,” Walker said. “You just can’t have those 3-to-4-to-5 minute lulls.”
Cougar post Reggie Owens had a monster game and was awarded the tournament’s MVP award. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound senior had game-highs of 21 points and 15 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, most coming in the first half when APU had 11 offensive rebounds.
“I thought we took away some of their bigs with the zone in the first half, but we gave away a lot of offensive rebounds,” Walker said. “We played more man-to-man in the second half and rebounded better.”
Owens was joined by teammate Marshall Johnson on the all-tournament team. Johnson finished with 14 points, three assists, and three steals. Also named to the all-tournament team were LCSC’s David Johnson, Montana State-Northern’s Shawn Tatarka and LaVon Myers, and Portland Bible’s Dustin Hutley.
David Johnson led the Warriors with 18 points and tied Donte Roberts for rebounding honors at seven. Johnson also added three steals and two assists. Guard Jeray Key was the only other Warrior in double figures with 10 points.
For the night, APU hit 29-of-68 shots from 42.6 percent, and was 6-of-21 at the 3-point line for 28.6 percent. LCSC was 20-of-56 for 35.7 percent, and 5-of-18 at the 3-point line for 27.8 percent.
APU had a 38-34 rebounding advantage and also forced 21 turnovers. The Cougars outscored the Warriors 38-18 in the paint and 18-4 on second-chance points. APU also had 17 fastbreak points to just two for the Warriors.
LCSC will play a pair of road games during the holidays before starting Frontier Conference play. On Dec. 28, the Warriors will be in Portland to face Lewis & Clark College at 4 p.m., and then on Jan. 2, the Warriors will be in Walla Walla to face Walla Walla University at 7:30 p.m.