AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior forward Abby Johnson scored a career-high 29 points to lead the NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 75-53 victory over Concordia, snapping the Cougars’s first losing streak of the season.
“We knew from the beginning we had a chance to dominate in the post, especially since they’ve lost some post players since the last time we played them,” said Johnson. “The way we played in this game was good to help us get back to the way we were playing before we got into a little bit of a slump.”
Johnson, who also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season, sparked a 20-2 second-half run that turned a tight 3-point ballgame into a 63-42 Azusa Pacific advantage in a span of 6 minutes. She scored the first 6 points of the run, helping open up the outside for senior guard Sarah Leathers, who nailed both of her 3-pointers for the game in the burst.
“Sarah’s a smart guard, and she knew that Abby was having a great game,” said Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman. “She knew she didn’t need to start shooting a ton of 3s, she just had to find Abby. One of our strengths is that we’re not a one-dimensional team, so if you take one of our strengths away, we’ll do something else. Tonight, Abby wasn’t taken away from us, so we just kept going there.”
Azusa Pacific outscored Concordia in the paint, 48-16, and the Cougars were remarkably consistent from the field, shooting over 50 percent from the field for just the fourth time all season and the first time since a 93-61 win Jan. 5 over Hope International. The Cougars made 30-of-58 (52 percent) and shot exactly 52 percent in each half.
Concordia’s Ivana Warren knocked down 1 of just 4 Eagle 3-pointers with 2:29 remaining in the first half to push the Eagles in front, 30-29. However, freshman guard C.J. Hill’s offensive putback sparked a 6-0 Cougar run for a 35-30 lead with just over 30 seconds to play in the half. Nicole Fu’s jumper from the right elbow in the closing seconds of the period cut Azusa Pacific’s halftime margin to 35-32.
“It took us a little bit of time to get back into the flow, and (Concordia) made a lot of good shots in the first half where you just have to tip your hat to them,” said Hardeman. “I think we talked so much this week about helping (on defense), we kind of overcompensated. If someone were to drive, we’d have all 5 people helping. We had to remind them they still had to do their jobs, and at halftime we talked about making sure the right people helped.”
Leathers finished with 10 points, and junior forward
Fu was Concordia’s only player to reach double figures, finishing with 15 points, but without her 6-of-11 effort, the rest of the Eagles combined to shoot just 26 percent (15-for-58), misfiring on 23-of-27 3-point attempts.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 18-5 overall, 10-3 in GSAC, while Concordia drops to 9-14, 3-10 GSAC. The Cougars’ next contest is a visit Hope International on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m.