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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | OTHER TOURNAMENTS

Azusa Digs Deep For Victory

March 16, 2001|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TULSA, Okla. — Azusa Pacific struggled defensively Thursday night in its opening round game at the NAIA tournament, but the Cougars had enough depth to advance.

Seven players scored in double figures for the No. 2-seeded Cougars, who beat Edward Waters College of Jacksonville, Fla., 82-70, at the Tulsa Convention Center.

It was the 20th consecutive victory for Azusa Pacific (34-2), which plays local favorite Oklahoma City (19-6) at 6 p.m. today in the second round of the 32-team single-elimination event.

The Cougars, making their sixth consecutive appearance in the national finals, showed the effects of a nine-day layoff. They were sluggish against the more athletic Tigers, who won five of their last six games during the regular season to earn an at-large berth into the field.

"That's too long to be off," said center Justin Leslie, who scored 10 points and had eight rebounds in 25 minutes. "It was just good to get through it. Nobody really wanted to say it, but we were nervous when the game began."

Azusa Pacific made eight of 17 shots from three-point range and 24 of 45 from the field (53.3%). Forward John Bourne led the Cougars with 15 points and forward Anthony Haggins came off the bench to score 14 points in 17 minutes.

"Haggins was a sparkplug for us," Azusa Coach Bill Odell said. "I really have seven starters."

The Cougars needed all of them against Edward Waters (21-9), which was making its second appearance in the playoffs in three years. Every time Azusa Pacific got some breathing room, the Tigers rallied.

Azusa Pacific expanded its four-point halftime advantage with an 11-2 run for a 50-37 lead at the outset of the second half.

But Edward Waters cut the Cougars' advantage to 60-55 with 8:40 remaining and three minutes later trailed, 68-65, following a layup by Lamaas Barefield, who led all scorers with 18 points.

Haggins set up three baskets--including a dunk by a wide-open Leslie--with 4:23 to go. They were part of a 9-0 run that gave the Cougars a 77-66 lead.

"I knew in the second half that they were most likely going to double up on me, so I started to look for the open person," Haggins said.

In other NAIA tournament action: Biola used a big run in the second half to pull away for a 74-53 first-round victory over Westminster College of Salt Lake City.

Leading 35-28, the Eagles scored 18 of the next 23 points to take control against Westminster, which was making its first tournament appearance since 1961.

Forward Mark Thrash scored 16 points and forward Abiodun Medupin had 15 points and nine rebounds for Biola (26-6), which faces the University of Science and Arts of Chickasha, Okla. (26-2) tonight.

*

Jessica Williams and Davine Phelpes made big plays in the final seconds to help Central State of Ohio defeat Azusa Pacific, 66-61, in the first round of the NAIA women's tournament at Jackson, Tenn.

Leading 61-59, Williams hit a three-point shot with 18 seconds remaining to give the Marauders (25-7) a five-point lead. Azusa's Jacqueline Godoy countered with a layup but Phelpes made two free throws.

Catherine Solorio led Azusa (24-7) with 18 points and Godoy added 13.

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