AZUSA, Calif. -- After 2 shaky performances against conference rivals last week, the NAIA's No. 14-ranked Azusa Pacific responded with a swagger, forcing 25 Fresno Pacific turnovers en route to a 69-57 victory over the Sunbirds Tuesday evening at the Felix Event Center.
Sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter led Azusa Pacific with 19 points and junior center Kristie Hala'ufia shook off a scoreless first half with a superb second half, tallying 17 of the Cougars' 33 points in the half and connecting on her final 7 free throws.
"We came out tonight with more energy and defensive hustle," head coach T.J. Hardeman said. "A lot of us have been struggling offensively. It was nice to see Kristie break out in the second half and hit some shots. Michelle Byrd did a much better job tonight going the whole distance in running the offense."
Fresno Pacific took an 14-13 lead midway through the first half but Azusa Pacific guards C.J. Hill and Briana Hall sunk a pair of 3-pointers to put the Cougars up 19-14 and the Sunbirds never recovered. Azusa Pacific secured its lead for the duration of the game.
Four Cougars scored in double figures including Moore-Porter and Hala'ufia. Byrd tallied 12 points with 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 assists and Hall registered 10 points with 3 rebounds.
Azusa Pacific entered tonight's contest in an unfamiliar position, holding its first sub-.500 record in GSAC play through 5 conference games for the first time since the 2003-04 season. To avoid a third consecutive loss, the Cougars reverted to basic defensive fundamentals, notching 16 team steals which led to 23 points off turnovers.
"We definitely forgot about those last 2 losses," Hala'ufia said. "We're starting with a new beginning and we showed we can overcome the adversity of our mistakes. We're taking it one game at a time and that's going to help us in the long run."
With the victory, Azusa Pacific advances to 12-4, 3-3 in GSAC while Fresno Pacific drops to 6-7, 2-4 in GSAC. The Cougars travel to Costa Mesa to face the NAIA's No. 2-ranked Vanguard on Saturday, Jan. 17, at 5:30 p.m.