LEWISTON, Idaho -- The NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Azusa Pacific scored the first 10 points and never trailed, coasting to a 68-61 win over Warner Pacific (Ore.) Friday afternoon at Lewiston High School in the first day of action at the Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) College-hosted Staples Classic.
Junior guard C.J. Hill scored a game-high 18 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers that capped the initial 10-point burst in the game’s first 3 minutes. Hill made all 4 of Azusa Pacific’s 3-pointers, going 4-for-6 from long range.
Azusa Pacific exploited its size advantage to dominate the boards, out-rebounding the Knights by a 42-26 margin, and the Cougar frontcourt of Kristie Hala’ufia, Kristel Eddington and Amber Williams combined to shoot 12-of-18 from the field in the win. Hala’ufia recorded 16 points and 6 rebounds, Eddington added 11 points and 6 boards, and Williams finished with 6 points and 6 rebounds, as well.
“We ran our high-low game a lot, and it’s getting better and better,” Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “We definitely had a size advantage today, and our rebounding pretty much dictated the game. When you get 16 offensive rebounds, you’re usually going to do pretty well.”
After the 10-0 start, the Cougars led by at least 5 points throughout the entire first half until the final minute when Kelsey Mattsen scored 2 of her 11 first-half points to trim Azusa Pacific’s halftime margin to 34-30. A Mattsen bucket to open the second half cut the Cougar lead to 34-32, but Mattsen was held without a field goal the rest of the game.
“In the first half she was able to find some seams and openings, but in the second half we did a better job of staying with her,” Hardeman said. “They were very physical with us, but our willingness to keep the game inside continued to put pressure on them.”
Another Hill trey with 12:40 remaining in the game capped a 7-0 run and pushed the lead back into double digits at 48-37, the Cougars’ largest lead of the game. Warner Pacific pulled to within 4 points twice in the final 6 minutes, but Hill scored 7 of her 18 points during the same span to help ice the Cougar victory.
Sophomore point guard Briana Hall added a solid line of 8 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals, and junior guard Michelle Byrd added 7 points and a game-high 9 rebounds. Warner Pacific was led by Mattsen’s 14-point performance, and Kristina Schumacher (10 points) was the only other Knight to reach double figures.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 3-1 overall, and the Cougars have a chance to avenge their only defeat when they take on tournament host Lewis-Clark State Saturday at 4 p.m.