AZUSA, Calif. -- Led by the quick hands and deadeye long-range shooting of freshman point guard Briana Hall, the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific ran away with a 97-68 win over Ursuline (Ohio) College Tuesday night to wrap up the women’s portion of the 2-day Cougar Classic.
Hall tallied season-highs of 20 points and 7 steals, knocking down 4-of-6 3-pointers, and the true freshman from Fontana committed a season-low 1 turnover in the finest performance of her 12-game Azusa Pacific career. A 17-6 Ursuline run pulled the Arrows even at 32-32 with 6:10 to play in the first half, but Hall scored 7 straight points during a an 18-3 Azusa Pacific run that sparked the Cougars to a 50-37 halftime advantage.
“This was definitely my best (collegiate) game,” Hall said. “I had a lot of looks from the other guards driving and from the posts kicking it back out to me. They were looking for me, which was good, and I have started feeling more comfortable from the outside.”
Not even the mid-game intermission could slow Azusa Pacific, which extended its lead to 20 points on Hall’s third trey of the game. That bucket was the first of 23 straight points for Azusa Pacific, and when all was said and done, the Cougars had reeled off a 51-11 run that turned a tie ballgame into a commanding 40-point lead at 83-43 with 9:12 left in the game.
Sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter followed up yesterday’s season scoring high (22 points) with a 19-point, 3-steal effort. Combined with Hall’s 7 steals, the pair led Azusa Pacific’s defense to its third consecutive 20-steal game. The Cougars came up with 23 steals and scored 43 points off 31 Ursuline turnovers, their third straight game forcing an opponent into at least 30 turnovers.
“We felt our guards could pressure them, and we wanted to run and let our guards create some havoc defensively,” Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “Ursuline did a good job initially finding the open player and hitting some 3s, but we kept up the pressure and rotated some players through. It was nice to see everybody get after it and play hard. We had talked about defensively making a stand tonight, so I was pleased with a lot of what we did.”
The sophomore trio of center Kristie Hala’ufia and guards C.J. Hilland Jessica Raber combined for 32 points, 22 rebounds, 13 assists and 6 steals. Hill registered the game-high in assists with 7, and she notched a career-high in rebounds, pulling down 8 boards.
“The guards we put out there, night in and night out, are always at least as fast as the other team, and usually they’re faster, so we want to press the ball and look for them,” Hardeman said. “If that’s not there, we want to make sure to involve our bigs, too.”
Hall and Alex Moore-Porter scored 12 points each in the first half, and Hall grabbed 5 of the Cougars’ 11 steals in the opening half. Azusa Pacific led by as many as 11 points in the first 9 minutes before Ursuline tied the game, 32-32, at the 6:10 mark.
“We had a bad game yesterday, so we really wanted to bounce back with a better performance today,” Hall said. “We focus our game mostly on defense, and the offense just tends to follow our defensive effort.”
Ursuline, now 6-6 on the season, was led by Whitney Blackburn’s 16 points. Jessica Wood and Jenna Tomaro each added 11 points for the Arrows, who shot 39 percent (22-for-56) from the field.
The Cougars’ 97-point total was its highest scoring output in just over 2 years, falling just shy of the program’s first 100-point game since a 115-89 win over Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) on Dec. 29, 2006. Azusa Pacific wraps up its non-conference slate with a 10-2 overall mark. The Cougars visit Concordia in a 5:30 p.m. GSAC contest on Saturday, Jan. 3, the first of back-to-back conference road games before returning home to host the NAIA’s No. 11-ranked Point Loma Nazarene on Saturday, Jan. 10.