Facing off against an Azusa Pacific team known for their fast tempo athleticism who came into the game averaging 81.4 points a game (2nd in the GSAC), Head Coach Bill Czech wanted to "Use as much of the shot clock as possible, attempt to get good shots and not take anything for granted."
The Royals (6-1, 1-1 GSAC), who went into the game averaging a respectable 76.2 points, tied the score at 2-2 early in the game on a layup by Gipson in the paint. The Cougars (6-2, 1-1 GSAC), however, soon built a 12-6 lead. But back-to-back baskets by Jurich followed by another Gipson layup tied the score at 12-12 with 11:54 to play in the first half. The Jurich/Gipson duo scored 10 of the first 12 HIU points.
Demonstrating their willingness to stick to their game plan, HIU had taken just 10 shots to go along with just one turnover in the first 8 minutes of the game.
Hope International held the lead until 4:45 left before the break when Azusa Pacific moved in front 18-17. That set up a close to the half that featured three lead changes and three ties before the teams headed to the locker rooms tied 25-25.
Jurich (11) and Gipson (10) accounted for 21 of the Royals' 25 first half points.
APU drew the first points of the second half before Gipson drained a three pointer to give HIU a brief lead. On the Cougars next possession, they grabbed the lead again and pushed their advantage to 7 points in just over 2 minutes.
But the Royals did not fold the tents and moved back to the top side of the score board when Junior Aaron Woods dropped in a three pointer.
After the Woods' three, APU responded by building a four point lead (44-40) with just over 10 minutes to play. Five straight HIU points capped by a jumper from Freshman Austin Sanford pushed HIU ahead again.
With just under 5 minutes to play, the Cougars built a three point lead at 48-45. The HIU defense would allow APU to score just one more point the rest of the game.
A layup from Sanford with 31 seconds to play gave HIU a 51-49 lead. Jurich then fittingly sealed the game with a made pair of free throws with 16 seconds to play. The Royals made more free throws (14) on the night than the Cougars even attempted (11).
The win for the Royals is their first against the Cougars since joining the GSAC in 1999. With Azusa Pacific playing their final season in the NAIA and GSAC, Saturday's game was the final confirmed time that Hope International will play at Azusa Pacific in Men's Basketball.
Czech commented, "I am proud of the guys, they kept their poise and stuck to our game plan against a very classy APU team. Justin Leslie (APU's head coach) has been one of the GSAC coaches that has really befriended me since I started coaching at HIU."
As a follow up, Czech added, "Steve (Jurich) stayed level headed and was a good calming influence for the team. He also grabbed several key rebounds- a few of which I was not sure how he did."
For the Royals, they will now have two weeks before they play again. On December 17, they will find themselves in Redding to meet up with Simpson for a 1:30 pm tip-off.