AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific suffered its second straight upset loss to an unranked opponent, dropping a 60-55 decision to Point Loma Nazarene Saturday night. The Cougars came out flat, giving up an 18-0 first-half run, and didn’t snap out of it until they trailed by 15 points with less than 6 minutes remaining.
Sophomores Alex Moore-Porter and Jessica Raber each scored several pivotal buckets in a 17-4 run that pulled the Cougars back to within 2 points with 37 seconds remaining, and the Point Loma Nazarene inbounds pass after Raber’s fifth 3-pointer of the game sailed out of bounds untouched to give Azusa Pacific an opportunity to tie the game.
Junior center Kristie Hala’ufia, held scoreless for just the second time in her career, missed back-to-back opportunities in the paint on the ensuing possession, and Amanda Franz picked the ball away from freshman Briana Hall with 10 seconds left. The Cougars still had life, getting the ball back after Franz missed the front end of the 2-shot foul, but sophomore guard C.J. Hill’s pass to the wing from midcourt flew into the arms of the Sea Lions’ Bonnie Zabinsky to seal Azusa Pacific’s fate.
A Raber trey gave Azusa Pacific a 12-8 lead midway through the opening half, but Point Loma Nazarene center Colleen Planeta sparked an 18-0 run with the first of 5 straight Sea Lions field goals in the paint. The Cougars turned the ball over 5 times and missed 4 layups during the nearly 6 minutes in which it failed to score, handing its opponent a 26-12 lead with 5:21 left in the half before freshman center Amber Williams ended the scoring drought with 2 of her 8 first-half points.
Moore-Porter finished with 17 points and tied her season-high with 15 rebounds, and Raber shared the team scoring lead with 17 points with 5 treys. Williams scored a season-high 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field in 14 minutes of action off the bench.
Planeta, the NAIA’s leading scorer and shot-blocker, put together an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double with a pair of blocks, but it was Liah Ector’s game-high 17-rebound effort that led the Sea Lions to a 51-44 rebounding edge over Azusa Pacific. Franz finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field, and she was Point Loma Nazarene’s best shooter in a game where the Sea Lions shot just 33 percent (20-for-61) from the field.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific suffers back-to-back GSAC defeats for just the second time since 2006, with Point Loma Nazarene handing the Cougars the first of back-to-back defeats in a 2-game skid last February. The Cougars drop to 11-4 overall, 2-3 GSAC, while Point Loma Nazarene improves to 10-4 overall, 4-2 GSAC.
Azusa Pacific continues GSAC action on Tuesday, Jan. 13, hosting Fresno Pacific at 5:30 p.m.