AZUSA, Calif. -- For the second consecutive night the NAIA’s No. 17-ranked Azusa Pacific used a terrific opening sequence and rode the wave of momentum to a big victory this time a decisive 83-61 win over the NAIA’s No. 11-ranked Georgetown (Ky.), Tuesday night at the Felix Event Center.
The Cougars jumped out to a big lead in the first half with an energetic performance in the first 4 minutes. The Tigers looked lethargic in no small part because they were coming off a triple overtime loss to Biola, 84-76, the previous night.
Behind a 3-point barrage, Azusa Pacific (7-3) roared out to a 17-0 lead before Georgetown (9-4) managed to get on the scoreboard. The Cougars drained 4 triples, including a pair by Sarah Leathers, during the run. After 2 free throws by Kim Ingle ended the Tigers scoreless streak Leathers responded with her third 3-pointer of the opening half to push the lead to 20-2.
“We were penetrating really well and I was able to hang out on the outside and they were looking for me early,” said Leathers who scored a team-high 19 points. “It helps me get open shots when we are working the ball inside and then back outside.”
The Cougars had one of their finest games of the season rebounding the ball as they were plus 13 in that category after struggling early on.
“We’ve been focused on our defense and rebounding for the past month and tonight they were huge factors. I told the girls at halftime to go out and give it their all,” said head coach Danelle Liles. “They went all out tonight. I thought the effort was tremendous.”
The defense harassed the Tigers into 29 turnovers keeping them from establishing any momentum throughout the game although they did fight back.
Trailing 47-28 at halftime, Georgetown went on an 8-2 run to cut the lead to only 13. However, the Cougars settled in defensively and when Meghan Hillman buried a 3-pointer to make it 55-40 with 13:38 left in the game it was the last time they would allow a field goal until the 5:47 mark.
“We lost some momentum but we knew we would bounce back and run them so we weren’t too worried,” said Leathers. “We just had to make sure that we stopped their shooters and we would be okay.”
The win moved the Cougars record to 3-1 on the second night of back-to-back games and proved to be a convincing victory over a quality opponent and continues to feed the teams confidence according to Leathers.
“We started off the season slowly but a win like tonight’s shows that we have the potential to be as good as any team,” she said.
For the second consecutive night, Monica Somersprovided the Cougars with a spark off the bench. Last night she injected a sluggish offense with energy and today it was more of the same. Her 12 first half points kept the lead at a considerable margin as the outside shooting understandably cooled off.
Alyssa Ferdaszewski had a terrific all-around game contributing 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.
The Cougars now get a considerable break before their next game. Azusa Pacific get 8 days off and will meet Rocky Mountain College on Dec. 29 at the GSAC Challenge in Santa Clarita, Calif.