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Azusa Pacific's Reality Is Another NAIA Exit

March 18, 2001|PAUL McLEOD | From Staff and Wire Reports

Azusa Pacific walked into the Tulsa Convention Center for its quarterfinal game in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament with vivid memories of its 40-point rout of a good Oklahoma City team the night before.

It was the 21st consecutive victory for the Cougars, who had gotten so used to winning that it had, in the words of senior center Justin Leslie, "skewed our reality."

It didn't take long for reality to skewer Azusa Pacific. The No. 2-seeded Cougars were eliminated Saturday by Faulkner of Montgomery, Ala., 79-75.

"We were emotionally flat from the get-go," Leslie said. "We were not prepared. We're not 40 points better than any team in this tournament. We just did not bring our hearts tonight."

It was the second consecutive year that the Cougars (35-3), making their fifth consecutive- tournament appearance, have been eliminated by Faulkner.

Leslie, one of four Cougars to score in double figures, had 17 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Sophomore guard Caleb Gervin scored 17 and had seven rebounds, and junior forward John Bourne had 16 points and junior guard Steve McIlwain added 10.

Forward Paul Little of Faulkner, which is making its third consecutive appearance in the event, scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds. Reserve guard Rodney Keener scored 22 points and had nine rebounds.

Faulkner had an opportunity to blow the game open, but the Eagles hurt themselves repeatedly with missed layups, free throws and key turnovers. They opened the second half by making 11 of their first 15 shots for a 67-57 lead with eight minutes left. But they also missed several easy shots and finished the game by making only two of their last 13 tries.

Azusa Pacific got to within 71-68 on a three-point shot by Leslie with 3:28 remaining. But even though Faulkner made only two of its final six free throws in the final 55 seconds, Azusa Pacific could not respond.

Christian Heritage of El Cajon advanced to Monday's semifinals with a 75-61 victory over Texas' Lubbock Christian.

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