SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Forget all the notions about Azusa Pacific being loaded with offensive firepower. Don’t focus on the up-tempo style that fits their personnel so well. Look past the fact that the Cougars shot over 52 percent from the field and were terrific from 3-point range tonight.
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than their offensive statistics was their defensive effort as the Cougars locked up an opponent for the second straight night. But the offense wasn't to shabby either.
This time the NAIA’s No. 17-ranked Cougars dashed around, shot over and muscled through No. 24-ranked Lubbock Christian (Tx.) for an 82-67 victory Friday night at the GSAC Challenge hosted by The Master’s College.
The Cougars limited the Lady Chaps to 36 percent shooting from the floor and forced a startling 34 turnovers in the win.
Like Bob Marley once said, “Stir it up.”
The combination of executing on both ends of the floor has led to a resurgence over the last 6 games for Azusa Pacific, all wins. The Cougars graciously shared the scoring load with 5 players in double figures as they improved to 4-1 on the second night of back-to-back games.
The Cougars initially found themselves in a 9-2 hole less than 2 minutes into the game as Lubbock Christian hit 4 of its first 5 shots. However, Kim Lloyd’s lay-in that gave the Lady Chaps the 7 point advantage would be their last hoop for nearly 7 minutes as the Cougars went on a 17-0 run to wrestle away control.
Sarah Leathers sparked the run with back-to-back hoops including a 3 as part of her 14 point night. Jaclyn Rice, who has the third most 3-point field goals in program history, finished the run with back-to-back 3’s to extend a 4 point lead to a 19-9 advantage.
Hot shooting from Ashley Oakes and Lindsey West, carried the Cougars from there as they built a 10 point lead by intermission, 40-30. Oakes and West connected on each of their 3 field goal attempts as they combined for 16 first half points.
Oakes and Rice each drilled a pair of triples as the Cougars shot 56 percent from 3-point range.
After its initial run, Lubbock Christian watched their offense sputter due to Azusa Pacific forcing 17 first half turnovers that prevented any sustained runs from the Lady Chaps.
However, it also had 3 key players pick up at least 2 fouls in the first 20 minutes, including Sierra Wilcox who was relegated to the bench after picking up her third personal with 3:16 left in the half.
Oakes, Leathers and Monica Somers scored 14 points apiece while Rice added 13 and West 11.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Cougars shot 52 percent and extended their lead at one point to 25 points, 80-55, late in the second half.
The convincing win gives Azusa Pacific serious momentum as it restarts GSAC play on Tuesday, January 3, when it travels to Santa Clarita, Calif. to take on The Master’s at 5:30 p.m.