HAVRE, Mont. -- The NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Azusa Pacific opened the 2009-10 campaign with an impressive shooting performance, hitting 11-of-23 3-pointers in an 84-78 road win over Montana State-Northern Friday night. The win is the seventh straight season-opening victory for the Cougars, and it was the third straight year Azusa Pacific defeated a Frontier Conference program in its season opener.
Junior guard Michelle Byrd scored a team-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, and she also contributed 6 rebounds and a game-high 6 of Azusa Pacific’s 11 steals. Junior guard C.J.Hill added 17 points that included a game-high 5 3-pointers. Byrd and sophomore guard Briana Hall each nailed a pair of treys, and Hall finished with 11 points and a game-high 9 assists.
Senior center Kristie Hala’ufia scored 14 points and tied for the game-high in rebounds with frontcourt mates Kristel Eddington and Amber Williams, who each grabbed 7 boards.
The Cougars shot 50 percent (32-of-64) from the field and had the edge in every major statistical category in the victory. The only advantage Montana State-Northern had was at the free throw line, where the Skylights attempted 29 free throws, more than twice the 14 attempted by Azusa Pacific. In the second half alone, Montana State-Northern took 18 free throws to Azusa Pacific’s 6.
The Cougars shot a blistering 64 percent (21-for-33) in the first half, with Hill and Byrd combining for 24 points to help Azusa Pacific to a commanding 52-35 halftime lead.
The Cougars wrap up their season-opening 2-game swing through the Frontier Conference Saturday, taking on Great Falls (Mont.) at 7 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Time).