JACKSON, Tenn. -- Azusa Pacific ran out of gas at the end of a brutal 3-game slate in which it took on 3 of the NAIA’s top 9 teams in their own backyard, suffering a 97-61 defeat Saturday night to top-ranked Union (Tenn.), host of the Jackson Rotary Classic. The No. 6-ranked Cougars posted back-to-back wins over No. 9 Lambuth and No. 3 Freed-Hardeman Thursday and Friday but never led in Saturday’s final game of the 3-day tournament.
Union held junior center Kristie Hala’ufia scoreless in the first half, and Hala’ufia finished with 9 points, failing to reach double digits for the first time this season.
The Cougars stayed within 10 points through most of the first half, cutting the Bulldog lead to 7 points at 30-23 with 3:15 remaining in the period after junior forward Teri Higgenbottom’s trey, but Kaitlin Dudley drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 12-4 run that sent Azusa Pacific into halftime facing a daunting 42-27 deficit.
Freshman point guardBriana Hall pulled Azusa Pacific to within 14 points with a 3-pointer just over 3 minutes into the second half to cut the lead to 51-37. However, Union scored 29 of the game’s next 39 points over the next 10 minutes.
Sophomore guard C.J. Hill scored a career-high 20 points to lead Azusa Pacific’s offense, Hall added a season-high 15 points, and sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter collected 12 points and a team-high 9 rebounds for the Cougars.
Union featured 5 players in double figures, with Dudley scoring a team-high 17 with a 3 treys, and Ashley Lillard came off the bench for a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double for the Lady Bulldogs.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 4-1 overall, while Union remains unbeaten through 9 games this season. The Cougars are back on the road for another pair of games over Thanksgiving weekend, taking on Cal Maritime and Holy Names at the Holy Names Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 28-29. Azusa Pacific’s home schedule opens on Saturday, Dec. 6, when the Cougars kick off the Golden State Athletic Conference schedule against No. 13-ranked California Baptist.