Azusa, Calif. - The NAIA's no. 16-ranked Azusa Pacific Cougars breezed past CalPac opponent Bethany College, 71-39, Friday night at the Felix Event Center. The Cougar's controlled virtually every angle of the game for the first four and a half minutes of the half, surging ahead off of a 12-2 run that was established by senior guard Kate Shipp, who drained 5 of her 7 points in during the run.
Shipp was one of 8 different Cougars to score 5 or more points in the game. Senior forward Abby Johnson was one of three players to have a team high 11 points, along with freshman guards Michelle Byrd and C.J. Hill. Hill sparked off the bench for the Cougars early on, shooting 4-for-4, going 3-for-3 from the 3-point arc.
"After going a whole week without a game, I was nervous," Hill said. "We just had to shake off the dust tonight."
Despite an opening run, the Cougars evened off in the first half, shooting 25-60 (.367) from the field, committing 27 turnovers, and left for the locker room with only a 9-point lead, 28-17. However, despite lacking a step offensively, Azusa Pacific forced 32 turnovers from the Bruins just in the first half, 22 of which were steals.
"I think it's easier to defend when you are the larger team," Head Coach T.J. Hardeman said. "Although I didn't think we played our best at all tonight, I just keep in mind that we are only two games into the season. We also hadn't played in a week. You would think that practicing during the week would allow to you make up for lost time, but I saw things that we still need to improve on."
Azusa Pacific turned on the heat in the second half, going 14-30 (.467) from the field, allowing themselves to pull away against a Bethany squad that was growing more tired by the minute. The Cougars' advantage of speed and endurance helped to create a 28-7 run with only 9 minutes left in the game, boosting the Cougars' to a certain victory that was evident long before the game was over.
"We executed plays and focused on the things that were going to make us better," Johnson said. "If anything we just wanted to get ready for Tuesday's game against Point Loma. When you have 8 different players scoring well for us, it's hard to lose."
The Cougars look to take their momentum from Friday night into their first GSAC challenge of the season, which takes place Tuesday night November 20 at the Felix Event Center. Tip-off starts at 5:30 p.m.