AZUSA, Calif. -- In the early going of this season the NAIA’s No. 17-ranked Azusa Pacific has used offense as its calling card but tonight it was its suffocating defense that made the difference.
The Cougars rode their defensive momentum to a big halftime lead en route to a 74-51 win over St. Ambrose (Iowa), Monday evening, at the Felix Event Center.
The Cougars (6-3) defining stretch came in the first half when they blanked St. Ambrose for nearly 14 minutes. After Jennifer Goetz’s lay-in made it a 6-4 ballgame at the 14:38 mark, the Queen Bees (9-3) did not score another field goal until 2:47 remained in the half.
By then it was too late because Azusa Pacific had opened up a 29-13 advantage.
“Coach (Liles) put us into a trapping halfcourt defense and it energized us,” said Monica Somers, who sparked the Cougars with 18 points off the bench. “I don’t think they were expecting it and they weren’t very good ball handlers so it put pressure on them.”
After a sluggish offensive start Somers provided a scoring punch off the bench with 7 first half points as the Cougars went on a 22-3 run to turn a 1-point deficit into a large lead.
“I like to play games against teams that apply pressure defense because I can use my quickness to get by them,” said Somers, who finished the game 8-of-14 from the field. “All the help defenders had their heads turned so I knew that when I drove nobody would come over to take a charge.”
The Cougars held the Queen Bees to 26 percent shooting (18-for-68) and head coach Danelle Liles was happy with the effort.
“Certain teams you can trap and others you can’t but their guards had trouble handling it so we started running it every time. We were really aggressive so give our players credit. They did a good job,” said Liles.
After intermission the offense heated up as the Cougars made 17-of-29 shots to take away any comeback notions the Queen Bees might have had.
The defense forced St. Ambrose into 23 turnovers for the game that led directly to 27 Cougar points. Azusa Pacific was also dominant in the paint outscoring the Queen Bees, 40-16.
Lindsey West had 10 points and 8 rebounds and Meliame Hala’ufia added 9 points and 4 rebounds in helping the Cougars extend their winning streak to a season-high 3 games.
Jennifer Goetz led the Queen Bees with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Azusa Pacific will take the court again on Tuesday at 4 p.m. when it hosts No. 11 ranked Georgetown (Ky.). It marks the first meeting between the 2 programs.