AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior forward Alex Moore-Porter scored 16 of her season-high 22 points in the second half to lead the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 81-75 Golden State Athletic Conference victory over The Master’s College Tuesday night at the Felix Event Center.
Junior point guard Briana Hall added 18 points, also her season-high, and she and Moore-Porter scored the first 11 points of a 12-3 run during a crucial second-half stretch that snapped a 61-61 tie and gave the Cougars the lead for good.
“Mental toughness comes from experience and knowing how to attack the problem, when you know where the problem is and how to fix it,” Moore-Porter said. “When players are called upon, they have to step up, and tonight it was Briana and I. She is a great point guard, and she created our scoring opportunities by playing aggressive.”
The Master’s, which battled back from 15 down in the first half and took the lead 3 times in the second half, rallied again late behind a late 3-point barrage from Erica Inge. Inge’s first trey with 2:26 remaining trimmed Azusa Pacific’s lead to 73-69, and she hit another with just under a minute left in regulation to make it a 3-point game at 75-72.
Hall pushed the lead back to 5 points with a jumper in the paint with 35 seconds remaining, and Inge missed a layup at the other end that forced The Master’s to foul. Junior guard Eboni Sadler drained 4 free throws in the final 16 seconds, with Inge knocking down another triple in the closing seconds for the final 81-75 margin.
“I was pleased–not that the game got close, but that when it did we kept our composure and poise,” Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “To win big games, you have to be able to hit free throws, and we stepped to the line and knocked some baskets down. They were very scrappy, and they’ve played everybody pretty tight. This was the type of game we walk away thinking about the things we could have done better but also glad that we won.”
Azusa Pacific lost the turnover battle, committing 15 of its 21 turnovers in the first half, but the Cougars made up for it with outstanding free-throw shooting (91 percent) and out-rebounding the opponent for the seventh consecutive game (44-37). Sadler was a perfect 6-for-6 at the line, and she also matched senior center Kristie Hala’ufia with a team-high 9 rebounds.
“We have a lot to work on,” Moore-Porter said. “This wasn’t a perfect game, but it did show the poise this team has at the halfway point of the season.”
Inge led The Master’s with a game-high 28 points, 18 of them in the second half, and Theresa Brown was a point shy of a double-double with 9 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Brown converted a 3-point play that was followed by 4 straight Inge layups, an 11-0 run that whittled Azusa Pacific’s 29-14 lead, its largest of the game, to just 4 points with 2:31 remaining in the first half.
Senior guard C.J. Hill tossed in 6 points off the bench, scoring 3 momentum-turning points in each half. She converted a 3-point play to stop the Mustangs’ 11-0 first-half run, and the Cougars went into the half with a 36-29 edge. Her other 3 came on a trey that answered an Ella Joines 3-pointer and gave Azusa Pacific a 61-59 lead with 8:55 to play. The Cougars never trailed again, pulling away less than a minute later with the start of the 12-3 run that pushed the lead to 73-64 with 4:31 left.
With the win, Azusa Pacific kept pace with GSAC-leading California Baptist, which needed overtime to knock off unranked Concordia. The Cougars remain 1 game off the lead, improving to 15-4 overall and 7-2 GSAC, while The Master’s suffered its third straight loss to fall to 12-6 overall, 5-4 GSAC.
Azusa Pacific concludes the first half of the 20-game conference schedule with Saturday’s visit to San Diego Christian for a 2 p.m. contest.