AZUSA, Calif.-- The NAIA's No. 20-ranked Azusa Pacific scored 53 of its total 80 points in the paint to spur a 80-75 victory over The Master's College Tuesday evening at the Felix Event Center. Sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter led the Cougars with 23 points and 8 rebounds.
Azusa Pacific established a 28-10 lead in the first half, forcing the Mustangs to 13 turnovers and 3-for-16 shooting in the first 12 minutes of the game. The Cougars registered 23 of its points in the paint during the run, initializing themselves with an effective inside game.
"Our intent was to make the Mustangs guard us inside," Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. "We're not a bad 3-point shooting team but we didn't want to get into a 3-point shooting contest with them tonight. I thought we did a good job penetrating inside."
Freshman center Amber Williams tallied a team-leading 9 first-half points and the Cougars took a 33-22 lead into halftime. The Master's had a second-half resurgence and pursued to close Azusa Pacific's commanding lead with 8 team 3-pointers.
To counteract the Mustangs' offensive attack, Azusa Pacific knocked down 16-of-21 free throws, including the Cougars' final 10 points of the game in the last 2 minutes. The Master's never held the lead for the duration of the game.
"We shoot enough free throws to know that free throws decide games," Hardeman said. "We emphasize it in practice all the time and we expect to convert them in the clutch."
Sophomore guard C.J. Hill recorded 17 points and 7 assists, junior center Kristie Hala'ufia accounted for 13 points and 8 rebounds, and sophomore guard Michelle Byrd nabbed 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals.
"It's a really good win because it's the second half of our season and in order to make sure we go far in the postseason, we need to make sure we get these wins," Moore-Porter said. "We've had games get away from us in the first half but we have matured from that. We need to make sure to execute and earn wins for the entire second half of the season."
With the win, Azusa Pacific advances to 16-6, 7-5 in GSAC and The Master's drops to 10-11, 5-7 in GSAC. The Cougars begin a trio of games against conference teams slated among the top half of the GSAC. The stretch will start on Saturday, Feb. 7, with a visit to Riverside to challenge California Baptist at 5:30 p.m.