Biola scored the first eight points of the game and never looked back, blowing out its arch-rival Azusa Pacific University 76-54 in the 94th meeting between the two schools played in front of 2,598 fans on Tuesday night at the Felix Event Center in Azusa.
The Eagles improve to 18-6 on the season with their sixth win in their last seven games. They improve to 9-5 in the GSAC, tied for third in the conference with the Cougars, who fall to 16-8 overall.
The victory was a huge win for Biola, which snapped a seven-game road losing streak against the Cougars and won for just the fourth time in 19 games at Azusa Pacific. The last time the Eagles won at Azusa came during the 2001-02 season when Biola defeated the Cougars 61-60. It as also a huge victory in terms of point spread as the 22-point win was the Eagles' largest margin of victory over the Cougars since an 89-56 home win in the 1989 district playoffs.
The near-capacity crowd provided an electric atmosphere for the two teams to do battle and laid waste to the misguided claims by some that the rivalry is "over. It’s done. Finished. Ended and retired." However, in what amounted to the biggest game of the regular season for both teams thus far, Azusa Pacific just had no answer for Biola's superior play on both sides of the ball.
The Eagles had four players score in double-figures led by sophomore forward Josh Miller, who scored a game-high 18 points and added seven rebounds, two blocks and a pair of steals. Miller was 6-of-8 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line. Junior forward Rocky Hampton added 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks while shooting 6-of-9 from the field. Sophomore guard Nate Rakestraw added 12 points and junior guard Marlon King contributed 11 points and six assists in the winning effort.
Biola jumped out early in the game and never really looked back. The Eagles scored the first eight points of the game and held a 16-5 lead with 13:25 to go in the half. A fast-break layin by Mike Caffese pulled the Cougars within eight at 18-10 with 9:14 to play. But the Eagles responded with an 8-0 run capped by a three-point play by Miller to go up 26-10 with just under five to go. Azusa Pacific closed the gap to nine just before half but the Eagles would head to the locker room with a 31-20 lead.
The teams exchanged baskets throughout the first part of the second half, but Biola kept up the pressure and turned the game into a blowout by turning a 13-point lead into a 22-point advantage with a 15-6 run over a five minute stretch early in the half. The Eagles would extend their lead to as many as 26 points in the second half and cruised to the easy victory.
Biola shot an eye-popping 70 percent in the second half, hitting 14-of-20 shots from the field including 5-of-6 from three-point range. The Eagles finished by hitting 57.4 percent from the field, matching their best shooting performance of the season.
Biola, which entered the game with the best scoring defense in the NAIA, held the Cougars to just 54 points, the lowest total of the season by Azusa Pacific. The Cougars' previous low was 63 points in a 66-63 loss at Concordia. The Eagles also improve to 16-0 when holding teams to 60 points or fewer this season.
The Eagles look to keep the momentum going, hosting San Diego Christian College in a GSAC game on Saturday (Feb. 14) at Chase Gymnasium. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
View photos in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune from the Biola and APU game at Azusa Pacific University's Felix Event Center on Tuesday February 10, 2009.
Written by Jeff Hoffman, Sports Information Director