AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior guard Michelle Byrd sparked a pair of crucial second-half runs that helped the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific break away in the second half for an 80-71 win over NAIA Div. II No. 8-ranked Grand View (Iowa) in the Cougars’ home opener Friday at the Cougar Classic.
Byrd scored 13 of her team-high 16 points in the second half, scoring 5 of them on a pair of free throws followed by her first of a pair of 3-pointers to cap a 9-0 run that snapped a 56-56 deadlock midway through the second half.
After Grand View cut Azusa Pacific’s lead to 2 points (73-71) with 1:44 to play, Byrd answered at the other end with a back-breaking trey from the right wing to push the Cougars back in front by 5 points, 76-71. She knocked down 4-of-4 free throws in the final minute, giving Byrd all the points of a 7-0 game-ending run for the final 9-point margin of victory.
Byrd shared the team scoring lead with senior forward Alex Moore-Porter, each scoring 16 with at least 10 coming in the second half. Junior guard Eboni Sadler added 15 points, sinking 3-of-5 3-pointers, and senior guard C.J. Hill joined the aforementioned trio in double figures with a 13=point effort.
Grand View, which led on 3 separate occasions in a first half that included 6 tie scores and 5 lead changes, was led by sophomore guard Jennifer Jorgenson’s game-highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds. Jorgenson scored 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the first half to keep the Vikings within striking distance at halftime, trailing by just 3 points at 40-37. Sophomore guard Amy Vos was also in double figures by halftime, scoring 10 of her 15 in the first half, and senior center Danielle Ballard added 16 points.
Senior center Kristie Hala’ufia and junior center Amber Williams were held to a combined 12 points, but each grabbed a team-high 9 rebounds, and junior point guard Briana Hall contributed 8 points with game-highs of 7 assists and 5 steals. Byrd added 3 assists and 5 steals to her 16-point performance.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 5-1 overall, while Grand View drops to 3-7 on the year. The 4-team, 4-game Cougar Classic wraps up Saturday, when the Cougars host Mount Vernon Nazarene following Grand View’s 2 p.m. matchup with Hope International.