Biola, Azusa men’s basketball to meet in first non-conference matchup since 1993

The rivals face off Friday in their first game since APU’s move to the NCAA.


Tyler Otte

Senior Davey Hopkins dunks against APU for one of the most memorable moments of the night. Biola beat APU on Jan. 31 with a final score of 65-58. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

Conner Penfold, Writer

Senior Davey Hopkins dunks against APU for one of the most memorable moments of the night. Biola beat APU on Jan. 31, 2012, with a final score of 65-58. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES [file photo]

Azusa Pacific University will walk into Chase Gymnasium Friday night and face Biola men’s basketball for the 101st time. But unlike the previous two decades, Azusa will be representing NCAA Division II in the Pacific West Conference.

For the last 19 years, Biola and Azusa have shared one of the NAIA’s most intense rivalries as part of the Golden State Athletic Conference. Players familiar with the team’s history see no sense weakening the rivalry due to the teams’ recent separation.

“We’re going to take this as seriously as if they were our rival in conference,” senior forward David Cline said.

Cline, having played five career games against Azusa, has the most experience playing amid the atmosphere this game breeds.

Coming off his fourth double-double of the season — an 11-point, 10 rebound effort in a loss to California Maritime Academy — Cline has led Biola in what will be his final season of collegiate basketball. He’s averaging 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds, good enough for third and first among GSAC players.

Forward Zack Zaragoza is having an improved sophomore campaign, upping his freshman year average of 8.5 to 14.2. Zaragoza logged 39 minutes in last year’s two Azusa matchups.

“I always get ready to go when we play APU,” Zaragoza said. “I don’t think it makes a difference at all.”

Biola will come into Friday’s matchup having played twice as many games as Azusa, though the Cougars’ five-game scoring average of 79.8 is more than Biola has scored in any of their 10 contests. The Eagles have averaged 71.3 points in comparison, compiling a record of 7-3 while Azusa sits as 3-2.

Azusa’s high-scoring backcourt needs to be tamed

Head coach Dave Holmquist’s defensive scheme will have to contend with the PacWest’s third best scorer, Azusa guard Troy Leaf. The sophomore transfer from the University of California, Santa Barbara is averaging 19.4 points thus far, but has been held to under 10 points twice. In the other three games Leaf  has put up impressive totals — 27, 29 and 30 points — all while shooting 54 percent from the field.

Azusa’s other guard, senior B.J. Porter, has made 17 three-pointers in just five games to lead all PacWest scorers. He averages 15.6 points per game, and together with Leaf accounts for almost half of the Cougars’ scoring attack.

“[Holmquist] said their two guards control their offensive flow and that we’ll focus our defense around stopping them,” Cline said.

“If we slow them down,” he said, “then we give ourselves a great chance to win.”

This season, Eagles defenders have given up a combined average of 24.8 points to their opponents’ two top-scoring guards.

The Cougars lead the all-time series 53-47, with Azusa taking three of the last four meetings. 

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