AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA's No. 23-ranked Azusa Pacific fueled a 25-2 opening run to propel the Cougars to a 78-43 rout over Hope International Tuesday evening at the Felix Event Center. Azusa Pacific scored just about half of its points (38) off the 28 turnovers it forced on the Royals.
Sophomore guard C.J. Hill sparked the 6-minute opening run with 6 steals and 5 points to open the half. Freshman guard Briana Hall tallied 9 points in the run with sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter knocking down 6 points of her own.
"Our defense ignited the 25-2 run," Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. "We played intense, trapping the Hope International offense and helping each other out in our fast break transitions."
After Azusa Pacific established a quick 23-point lead, it was lights out as the Cougars held strong for the remainder of the evening. The Cougars pushed the lead to as much as a 37-point advantage, holding a 48-11 lead with 4 minutes to go in the first half. Azusa Pacific's starters secured a 50-22 halftime lead and the Cougar bench finished strong, outscoring the Royals 28-21 in the second half and establishing career-high tallies in the process.
Sophomore guard Jessica Raber equaled a career-high 17 points and added 4 rebounds and 2 steals, Gardner-Webb transfer Teri Higgenbottom complemented Raber's effort with a career-high 10 points, and freshman forward Jasmyn Reed grabbed a career-high 10 boards. Freshman guard Cherie Hughes supplemented the charge with a team-leading 22 minutes.
From Azusa Pacific's viewpoint, the evening belonged to Raber, who registered 5 treys to celebrate her 20th birthday. Raber has been an outstanding offensive sparkplug off the bench all season, energizing her teammates by converting key baskets in the heart of the game.
"We played tough, we worked hard, and it was all the more better because it was on my birthday," Raber said. "I couldn't do anything without the team. I just want to come out as strong as I can and I'm there for my teammates when they need me to shoot."
Perhaps the rarest Cougar basket is a 3-pointer off the hands of Cougar enforcer Kristie Hala'ufia. With a little over 7 minutes to go in the first half, Hala'ufia planted her feet at the top of the key and and made her first-ever career 3-pointer off a high-arcing release. Hala'ufia finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
With the win, Azusa Pacific advances to 13-5, 4-4 in GSAC play, while Hope International drops to 1-15, 0-8 in GSAC. The Cougars travel next to San Diego Christian, also winless in conference play, on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 p.m.