AZUSA, Calif. -- Junior point guard Briana Hall scored a season-high 18 points, and junior center Amber Williams tallied a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double to help lead the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 86-66 win over Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) Saturday in the final game of the Cougar Classic.
Williams scored 8 points in her first 3 minutes off the bench, sparking a 10-2 run that erased Mount Vernon Nazarene’s early 11-5 lead, and Hall hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 15-6 run out of the halftime break that turned the Cougars’ 50-39 halftime margin into a commanding 20-point edge at 65-45 with 16:29 to play.
Azusa Pacific had 5 players finish in double figures, led by Hall’s 18. Senior center Kristie Hala’ufia scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, and junior guard Eboni Sadler added 13 points with a pair of 3-pointers and 4 steals. Senior forward Alex Moore-Porter was the halftime scoring leader, tossing in 11 of her 12 points in the opening half to help the Cougars to the 11-point edge at the break.
Sadler twice gave Azusa Pacific the lead midway through the opening half, putting the Cougars in front, 19-18, with a 2-point jumper with 12:34 left in the half before draining her first trey less than a minute later to break a 21-21 tie and give Azusa Pacific the lead for good. Moore-Porter and Hall answered consecutive 3-pointers from Kelli Pollock that pulled Mount Vernon Nazarene to within 4 points on back-to-back possessions.
With 5 minutes left in the half, senior guard Jessica Raber drained a 3-pointer that gave Azusa Pacific its first double-digit lead at 41-30 and the first of 5 11-point first-half leads before the 50-39 halftime margin. Sadler capped the Cougars’ 15-6 run to start the second half with her second 3-pointer of the game, and senior guard Michelle Byrd hit from 3-point range midway through the second half to set off an 11-0 ambush that gave Azusa Pacific its largest lead of the game at 80-55 with 7:32 remaining.
Mount Vernon Nazarene was led by Amanda Himes, who registered a game-high 19 points and a team-high 11 rebounds for the double-double. Himes was Mount Vernon’s lone double-digit scorer, although a trio of teammates tallied 9 points each. One of those was Whitney Levering, who was a point away from the double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds.
Byrd finished with a game-high 5 steals for an Azusa Pacific defense that came up with 15 steals, and Williams tallied 3 of the Cougars’ 4 blocked shots. Hall’s 18-point, 4-assist, 2-steal performance was even more impressive for the statistic in which she was shut out – Hall went turnover-free for the first time this year after committing 18 turnovers over the 3 previous games entering Saturday.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 6-1 overall, while Mount Vernon Nazarene drops to 6-2 on the year. The Cougars open up the Golden State Athletic Conference schedule with 4 games in 12 days, beginning with the Tuesday, Nov. 30 GSAC opener at home against Fresno Pacific.