FRESNO, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific used a 16-2 run down the stretch to pull away from Fresno Pacific and post a 75-63 Golden State Athletic Conference victory in the Special Events Center Tuesday night.
With the victory, the Cougars push their winning streak to 6 straight, and they have taken 8 of their past 9 games to keep pace with GSAC front-runner California Baptist, a winner tonight as well.
Junior guard Eboni Sadler scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in the second half, including 13 in less than 4 minutes when she took over the game and single-handedly led the Cougars to the victory.
With Azusa Pacific down 51-49 midway through the second half, senior center Kristie Halaufia kick-started a Cougar offense that had momentarily gone dormant with a conventional 3-point play. From there, Sadler took over the next 3 minutes and 28 seconds, making 5-of-8 shots, including a trio of 3-pointers to push the Cougars out to a comfortable 65-53 advantage with 6:48 left in the game.
“That burst by Eboni effectively ended the game,” said Azusa Pacific fourth-year Head Coach T.J. Hardeman. “We weren’t shooting particularly well, and they were packing it in, so Eboni said ‘okay, I’ll shoot.’ They were shots that were there for her in the first half but she didn’t take them.”
By the time Sadler scored her final 2 points on a lay-up with just under 3 minutes to play, Azusa Pacific had its largest margin of the night at 73-58.
Sadler made 9-of-16 shots from the floor in her 28 minutes of play.
“Eboni changed the whole way Fresno was guarding us,” said Hardeman. “They had to start guarding her and that opened it up for everyone else.
All-American Alex Moore-Porter added 13 points, 10 of which she scored in the first half when the Cougars moved out to a 37-33 lead, and junior guard Briana Hall posted 13 points to go along with a game-highs of 8 assists and 3 steals.
Fresno Pacific, which has lost 3 straight to Azusa Pacific and 15 of the past 16 meetings, assumed an 18-12 lead 7 minutes into the game. The Cougars responded with a 18-2 run capped by back-to-back Michelle Byrd field goals that gave the Cougars a 30-20 lead with 5:40 left in the first half.
As they did in their first-meeting when they beat Fresno Pacific, 81-58, in the GSAC opener back on Nov. 30 in Azusa, the Cougars dominated play on the glass, out-rebounding the Sunbirds, 39-24, including a 19-7 count on the offensive end, which led to a 25-2 Cougar advantage on second-chance points. Byrd led the way with a season-high 13 rebounds. Moore-Porter and Hala’ufia each had 7.
“Michelle made a real mature decision,” added Hardeman. “She realized she wasn’t shooting well tonight so she just started going after rebounds, doing whatever she could to help the team.”
Fresno Pacific, which falls to 7-14 overall and continues in search of its first GSAC win of the season after 11 tries, was led by Michele Rebozzi’s 16 points.
Azusa Pacific, which had 13 turnovers in the first half but just 3 in the second half, improves to 17-4 overall, 9-2 in the GSAC.