RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 20-ranked Azusa Pacific got a 30-point, 15-rebound double-double from sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter, and the Cougars never trailed in a 79-63 road win over California Baptist Saturday evening.
Moore-Porter tallied 21 of her 30 points in the first half as the Cougars built up an 11-point halftime lead en route to just the third GSAC road for Azusa Pacific this season. It was the first road win over an opponent that entered Saturday’s game .500 or better in conference play, although the Cougars blew second-half leads in all 4 of those road setbacks.
“We really wanted to keep our focus down the stretch,” Moore-Porter said. “I think we’ve matured up to this point (of the season), and we were able to do those things and come out with the win. I had an attitude that I wouldn’t be denied inside, because I knew we had an advantage as a team inside.”
The Cougars led by double-digits less than 9 minutes into the game after Moore-Porter scored 13 in a 15-5 run that gave Azusa Pacific a 19-9 lead with 11:19 remaining in the half. The Cougars led by at least 10 for all but 2 minutes of the rest of the half, taking a 44-33 advantage into the halftime break. Azusa Pacific held California Baptist senior guard Nicole Davis to just 2 points in the first half, and she finished with 8 points to snap a 21-game double-digit scoring streak.
California Baptist trimmed the lead to less than 10 points midway through the second half, cutting it to 9 3 times early in the second half, but the Cougars killed each rally. Freshman guard Briana Hall’s driving layup through the lane pushed the lead to 56-45 with exactly 14 minutes to play, and junior center Kristie Hala’ufia put back a Michelle Byrd miss with just under 13 minutes remaining for a 58-47 advantage. Then, after a pair of Nicole Davis free throws, Moore-Porter scored the first of 3 straight Cougar baskets to push the lead to 66-51 with 6:38 left.
Moore-Porter has now set a season scoring high in 3 of her past 4 games, and her 30-point game was the first by a Cougar this season. Hala’ufia added a 13-point, 15-rebound double-double, leading Azusa Pacific to a 53-42 rebounding edge, its second domination of the boards against California Baptist this season. Moore-Porter and Hala’ufia both registered double-doubles in Azusa Pacific’s 87-79 win over the Lancers in this season’s GSAC opener in Azusa on Dec. 6.
“She’s really stepping up right now,” Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said of Moore-Porter, whose 20-point scoring average in GSAC play ranks second by just 4-tenths of a point to Point Loma Nazarene’s Colleen Planeta.
“If you’re going to make her go outside, she’ll go outside, if you make her go inside, she’s happy to go anywhere. She wants to do everything we need her to do. She’s kind of a renaissance player in that she can do all kinds of those little things for us.”
Hall added 19 points and a season-high 9 rebounds, and she didn’t commit a turnover in 38 minutes running the point. For the second time in 3 games, the Cougars committed just 10 turnovers, its lowest single-game total in GSAC play.
“We’ve talked a lot about taking care of the ball, and to have 4 turnovers at halftime and 10 for the game, that’s where we want to be,” Hardeman said. “I thought Briana Hall had a great game, scoring, rebounding, a number of assists and no turnovers. She just looked awesome, and it was great to see a freshman developing into what we envision being a star player for us.”
Jeanine Deno led California Baptist with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Brianna Estell was the Lancers’ only other double-digit scorer with 11 points.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 17-6 overall, 8-5 GSAC, and the Cougars take sole possession of fourth place in the conference standings a game ahead of Biola, which lost 62-56 at Vanguard tonight and visits Azusa Pacific on Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 5:30 p.m.