OAKLAND, Calif. -- Perfection is supposed to involve a journey, require some sweat and failure along the way, and certainly demand some lengthy amount of time to achieve. It doesn’t come in the blink of an eye – or does it?
Senior center Kristie Hala’ufia seems to buck conventional thought and firmly held premises. In just her second game of the season, Hala’ufia appeared to be in mid-season form, achieving perfection in a grand manner by making all 12 shots she attempted, including a pair from the 3-point arc, to score a career-high 31 points and lead the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 83-52 victory over William Jessup University during the second day of the Holy Names Tip-Off Classic.
Seemingly unnerved playing in front of a large gathering of family and friends, the San Mateo native carved apart the Warrior defense and the Cougar record book, breaking the former single-game standard of shooting set by Jennifer Barbone in 2000 when she went 11-for-11 in a game vs. Point Loma Nazarene University.
“We knew Kristie made her first 11 shots, so we did a ‘heat check,’” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach T.J. Hardeman as he put Hala’ufia’s pursuit of perfection and a record on the line. “I guess she was on fire.”
Hala’ufia went 6-for-6 from the floor in both halves, capping her performance with a 3-pointer that put Azusa Pacific up by 35 at 76-41 with 5:13 left in the game. She even bucked her own tendencies at the free throw line where she is a career 57-percent shooter. She made all 5 attempts from the line. Her offensive onslaught paced a Cougar team that made 54-percent (27-for-50) of their shots and rolled out to a 21-point lead by halftime at 45-24.
All-American Alex Moore-Porter was the only other Cougar in double digits, adding 17 points, but 11 different Cougars scored.
“With a rotation of 10 players, our emphasis this year is to run every possession as hard as we can,” said Hardeman. “We think we have more quality players than most teams, so we try to maintain our intensity by rotating players in on a regular basis. It’s motivation for our players because they know they’re going to get opportunities to play.”
Azusa Pacific opened the game with a 12-3 run and in the process all 5 starters made a field goal. The Warriors never got closer than within 4 points the rest of the way, and the Cougars put them in chase mode with a 15-3 run that put Azusa Pacific up 27-11 midway through the first half.
From there on, it was a matter of offensive execution and high-pressure defense as Azusa Pacific continues to sharpen its game in preparation for the upcoming Rotary Classic in Jackson, Tenn., where the Cougars will face 3 nationally-ranked teams.
“These 2 games in Oakland showed us what we need to work on,” said Hardemen. “We’re not going to win or lose a national championship that weekend in Tennessee, but it will give us a good barometer of where we’re at. It’ll be fun to play some very good teams and see where we’re at.”
Defensively, the Cougars seem to be at the top of their game. They forced William Jessup into 29 turnovers, 14 of which came off Cougar steals. Junior guard Brianna Hall registered a game-high 6 swipes, and senior Michelle Byrd added 3. In addition, Azusa Pacific is holding the opponent to just 32-percent (38-for119) shooting through the first 2 games.
“We know as the year progresses, we’ll get more polished,” said Hardeman, “but for now we just want to make sure that nobody outworks us.”
Now 2-0 on the season, Azusa Pacific is off for the next 12 days, returning to the court Nov. 18 to take on the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Freed-Hardeman University in the opening game of the Jackson (Tenn.) Rotary Classic.