AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific beat Fresno Pacific, 71-58, in both team’s Golden State Athletic Conference opener Tuesday night in the Felix Event Center. The victory pushes the Cougar record to a 7-1 overall and 1-0 in GSAC play while the Sunbirds fall to a 4-2 overall record and 0-1 in GSAC play.
Azusa Pacific took care of business by making sure it utilized its height advantage over Fresno Pacific. Forward Alex Moore-Porter led the team in scoring with 15 points and center Kristie Hala’ufia earned a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“We had a huge size advantage, so it’s up to us to use that advantage,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach T.J. Hardeman. “We actually thought we could have done better in there, but that was what turned the game around.”
With 42 of their total 71 points being scored in the paint, the Cougars exposed the Sunbirds’ weak point and were willing to attack it. Amber Williams came into the game with not even 3 minutes gone and quickly got to work by hitting the boards. She had the most minutes off of the bench and was the Cougars’ inside force, scoring 6 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Cougars were down by the score of 11-10 early in the game, but a 12-2 run gave them a strong lead that did not go away for the rest of the game. Hardeman said the intensity on defense is what gave them their spark.
“Defensively, we were able to pressure them into some misses and regroup with the easier shots,” he said. “Typically, if you have bigger players, you get easier shots by the basket, so that should transfer into more points.”
Junior guard Briana Hall had a pair of steals and 2 assists in the run. To cap off the team’s success in the first half, Michelle Byrd scored 9 of her 12 total points in the final 5 minutes of the first half and proved that she can produce offensively when necessary for her team.
Hall was awarded the game ball for her performance against Fresno Pacific. She scored just 6 points, but she dished out 9 assists and collected 3 steals. Her ability to push the ball up the court and opened opportunities for easy baskets that her teammates capitalized on.
The Cougars continued GSAC play at Concordia on Saturday (Dec. 4) with a 5:30 p.m. tip-off in the CU Arena in Irvine, Calif.